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Nigerian journalists, government critics that have been hounded

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“The press, radio, television and other agencies of mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people,” Section 22 of the Nigerian 1999 amended Constitution states. But this is far from the reality in the West African country.

Freedom of expression which is one of the fundamental human rights is being muzzled.

The intimidation and harassment faced by journalists and critics of the Nigerian government are becoming alarming.

Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, once described press freedom as a “sound democratic ideal”. At the time he was on the presidential campaign trail, keen to prove himself a democrat and to jettison the baggage of his 20 months as military ruler in the 1980s. He told bosses of media companies that, if elected, he would uphold the constitution and respect freedom of speech but his administration has seen more press intimidation.

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To put this in the discourse, no fewer than 38 journalists have been arrested, harassed or killed in the past two years over publications pointing out the ills in the society.

Here are few reported cases of journalists and critics harassments:

Omoyele Sowore

Nigerian Human Rights activist Omoyele Sowore was arrested on August 3, 2019, by the Department of State Services (DSS). Sowore was arrested after calling for a nationwide protest tagged #RevolutionNow.

Sowore, a presidential candidate in the last election, said the protest was against President Muhammadu Buhari’s bad governance and accountability to the people.

But the Nigerian government ordered his arrest and subsequently charged him to court for treasonable felony, money laundering, terrorism and plotting to overthrow Buhari.

During his arraignment, the court on two occasions ordered Sowore’s bail but was denied by the DSS for undisclosed reasons.

After 126 days in detention, Sowore was granted bail on December 24 2019.

The court awarded N200,000 damages against the DSS payable to Sowore for frivolous reasons for adjournments.
The Federal High Court has adjourned his case till March 25 2020.

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Agba Jalingo

He is a journalist and human rights activist, a strong critic of the Cross Rivers State Governor, Ben Ayade. Jalingo was arrested, August 22 2019, in his Lagos residence.

He was charged with felony, terrorism and attempt to topple the Cross Rivers State government.

Critics say the state government of masterminded Jalingo’s arrest due to an article he published. He was arrested weeks after he published the article.

Jalingo, in the article, queried the whereabouts of the N500 million allegedly released for floating the Cross Rivers Microfinance Bank which the state government had continually denied.

Jalingo was granted bail by a federal high court in Calabar February 13 after Cross Rivers State Government reverted to the initial; charges of terrorism and conspiracy to remove elected governor from office.

Steven Kefason

Kefason, a freelance journalist and a strong critic of the All Progressive Congress (APC). He was arrested on May 8, 2019, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State by operatives of the State Investigation for five days.

He was rearrested by the Kaduna State Command of the Nigeria Police Force and jailed in the Kaduna prison by the Kaduna State government over a Facebook post.

According to James Kanyip, Kaduna deputy chief of staff, in a statement, he said Kefason’s arrest was pursuant to many petitions written against him ranging from insulting persons and institutions, injurious falsehood, inciting disturbance, defamation, and cyberstalking.

He spent 162 days in prison.

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Jones Abiri

Abiri is the publisher of Bayelsa State-based weekly newspaper, Weekly Source. He was arrested by operatives of Nigeria’s State security service in July 2016 and detained until July 2018 without trial.

The government accused him of pipeline vandalism and crude theft, including militant activities in the Niger Delta and alleged economic sabotage and terrorism.

The Bayelsa- based Journalist denied all allegations against him stating that he was being targeted for some of the reports he published that spotlighted illegal conducts of oil companies and the Nigerian government in the Niger Delta region.

He was released in August 2018 and rearrested May 2019. Abiri was released on bail October 2019.

Dadiyata

Abubakar Idris popularly known as Dadiyata is a strong critic of the Nigerian Government.

He is a lecturer at the Federal University Dutsinma, Katsina State, and supporter of former Kano State governor Rabiu Kwakwanso, a critic of the All Progressive Congress and the APC governor in Kano State Umar Ganduje.

He was abducted August 1, 2019, from his home in the Barnawa, Kaduna state.

The opposition party People’s Democratic Party (PDP) described Dadiyata’s disappearance as an “apparent desperation to intimidate, suppress and silence public opinion and free speech in Nigeria as well as to further entrench a siege mentality on our citizenry.

PDP accused the DSS, a unit of Nigeria’s state security service, of being responsible for the Dadiyata’s abduction.

Up till date the whereabouts of Dadiyata is yet unknown.


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