Onifade Emmanuel Pelumi, a Nigerian reporter and intern with the privately owned Gboah TV broadcaster, was found dead on October 30, 2020, in a mortuary in southwestern Lagos state, according to Pelumi’s family lawyer, Lekan Egberongbe, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview, and a statement by local media protection group Media Rights Agenda.
He was last seen alive on October 24 in the custody of police officers in the state capital, Ikeja, where he had gone to cover an attempted break-in at a government facility, according to the lawyer, that statement, and a family friend of the journalist, who spoke with CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
Police fired guns and used swords to fight back a crowd of people attempting to rob a government facility in the Ikeja suburb of Agege, according to a report by the privately owned Premium Times news website and video posted to Facebook by Gboah TV.
One of Pelumi’s colleagues, who was with him at the scene, said he saw the journalist sustain an apparent gunshot wound, according to those reports. The colleague, whose name was not disclosed, said that they saw police officers place Pelumi, who was wearing a press jacket, into a police van along with some of the alleged robbers, according to those reports.
From October 24 to 27, Pelumi’s family and colleagues searched for the journalist at police stations and other facilities in Lagos without success, according to Premium Times and a Gboah TV staff member who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, for fear of reprisal.
On October 27, the journalist’s family and Gboah TV posted a missing person’s announcement on social media; later that day, police called Pelumi’s family and scheduled to meet them the following day to discuss the possibility that the journalist was in police custody, according to Premium Times and the family friend.
On October 28, at the police headquarters in Ikeja, officers told Pelumi’s family and colleagues that they had arrested five people in Agege on October 24, and that one of those arrested had died, and his corpse was deposited at a mortuary in Ikorodu, a town in the north of Lagos, according to the family friend and Premium Times.
On October 30, the family identified Pelumi’s corpse at the mortuary, according to Egberongbe and the Gboah TV staffer.
Following the identification of the journalist’s body, police said Pelumi was not among those they arrested on October 24, and said that they had found his body on the ground at an unspecified location, and decided to put it in the mortuary, according to Egberongbe.
On November 11, a spokesperson for the Lagos state police command, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, told CPJ via text message that Pelumi’s death had been reported to a new judicial panel of inquiry investigating allegations of police brutality, but declined to comment further.
Pelumi, 20, worked as an intern reporter at Gboah TV while earning a history degree at the Tai Solarin University of Education, according to Premium Times.
Pelumi’s mother, Bose Onifade, told CPJ on November 19 that the family had not heard any updates from police or other authorities about an investigation into her son’s death.