Four police officers on patrol in Nigeria in 2023.
Police officers on patrol in Nigeria in 2023. Daniel Ojukwu of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism went missing for 24 hours before he was found to be in police custody. (Photo: AP/Sunday Alamba)

Nigerian police secretly arrest journalist Daniel Ojukwu over critical report

Abuja, May 8, 2024—Authorities in Nigeria should immediately release journalist Daniel Ojukwu and stop intimidating and arresting members of the press who investigate the government’s spending of public funds, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

On May 1, Ojukwu, a reporter with the privately owned Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), went missing and his phone was switched off, leading his outlet to report him as missing to the police in Lagos State, according to news reports.

On May 3, an investigator hired by FIJ found that Ojukwu’s phone had last been active in the Isheri Olofin neighborhood of Ikeja, the capital of Lagos State, and FIJ was informed that the journalist was being held at the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID) in Panti Street on allegations of violating the Cybercrimes Act, the FIJ reported and Ridwan Oke, a lawyer for the outlet, told CPJ.

Ojukwu was arrested over his November report, which alleged that Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, paid 147 million naira (US$106,154) of government money for school construction into a restaurant’s bank account, according to the FIJ and its founder, Fisayo Soyombo, who spoke to CPJ.

“Nigerian authorities must promptly and unconditionally release journalist Daniel Ojukwu and stop harassing and detaining journalists who publish investigative reports into corruption,” said Angela Quintal, head of CPJ’s Africa program, from New York.

“Just over six weeks ago, more than a dozen armed military men took another journalist, Segun Olatunji, from his home without explanation. In this latest case, Daniel Ojukwu was missing for 48 hours before his media outlet discovered that he was in police custody. This is no way to treat journalists who are performing a public service.”

On May 4, Oke visited Ojukwu at the SCID and said that the police had not shown his client a copy of the remand order or complaint filed against him and that Ojukwu suffered from undisclosed health conditions that needed medical attention. On May 5, Ojukwu was transferred to the police’s National Cybercrime Center in the capital, Abuja, Oke said.

The complaint against Ojukwu was filed on behalf of Orelope-Adefulire by United Action for Change, a non-governmental organization founded by Muix Adeyemi Banire, a former legal adviser to the ruling All Progressives Congress, according to Soyombo and a report by the privately owned Sahara Reporters news website.

Olatunji, an editor with the privately owned First News website, was held for two weeks before he was released without charge, according to news reports.

During an event to mark World Press Freedom Day last week, Information Minister Mohammed Idris Malagi was quoting as saying, without naming any journalists, that he was aware of “some challenges, especially in the last couple of weeks concerning one journalist who has had some problems with the security agencies.”

“That problem has been solved or is being solved. I’m being reminded by someone today that there’s another one. We are also working to ensure that one is also resolved,” The Cable news website reported him as saying.

CPJ’s calls and text messages to Malagi, Banire, and police spokesperson Prince Olumuyiwa Adejobi, did not receive any replies.