On January 21, 2020, Alex Ogbu, 50, a reporter and editor with the local independent outlet Regent Africa Times, died after being shot in the head at a protest in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, held by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria religious organization, according to Regent Africa Times publisher Shola Akingboye and Francisca Ogbu, the journalist’s wife, who both spoke to CPJ over messaging app and phone calls, and a copy of the death certificate reviewed by CPJ.
Police initially told Francisca Ogbu that her husband died after he slipped and hit his head on a rock, she told CPJ. However, the local privately owned news website Sahara Reporters published a report on January 23 saying that police had shot and killed Ogbu. The author of that report, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, told CPJ they arrived at the protest just after Ogbu’s death and spoke with witnesses who said that police opened fire at protesters and a bullet hit Ogbu in the head. The witnesses said that Ogbu died at the scene, the Sahara Reporters journalist told CPJ.
A medical certificate issued by the National Hospital in Abuja, which CPJ reviewed, listed Ogbu’s cause of death as damage to the brain caused by a gunshot, corroborating the Sahara Reporters journalist’s account. The certificate was dated January 21, 2020, but was not released publicly until February 8, according to Sahara Reporters.
Akingboye told CPJ that he had not explicitly directed Ogbu to cover the protest, but having worked closely with Ogbu, believed that the journalist would not have passed by a protest and failed to report on it. A member of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Abdullahi Musa, told CPJ in a phone call that Ogbu was not a member of their movement, and was known as a journalist who covered their protests.
Francisca Ogbu told CPJ she had seen her husband earlier that day and believed he was on his way to the paper’s office when he died.
Police took possession of the journalist’s phone after he was killed, and refused to return it to his wife until February 8, 2020, she told CPJ.
When contacted by CPJ over the phone, Anjuguri Manzah, a spokesperson for the Nigerian police, declined to comment on how Ogbu died and whether police opened fire at the protest, but said police were investigating. Manzah did not answer follow-up phone calls or reply to text messages from CPJ.
Separately, a statement following the protest signed by the Federal Capital Territory police spokesperson, Manzah Anjuguri, said police had intervened to "restore calm" around the Berger roundabout area of Abuja where the protest had taken place. The statement alleged that protesters had attacked police officers and other citizens with “dangerous weapons.”