NIGERIA


Africa cases 2004: Country List    I   Africa Regional Home Page
How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press



JULY 21, 2004
Posted: July 29, 2004

Emmanuel Ujah, The Sun
ATTACKED

Ujah, a correspondent for the national daily The Sun in central Benue State, was assaulted by police officers who also destroyed his camera and tape recorder, according to local journalists and press freedom groups.

Police attacked Ujah when he went to the Benue State police headquarters along with other local correspondents to investigate the detention of Johnson Babajide, a Benue State correspondent for the national daily Nigerian Tribune.

According to The Sun, Assistant Commissioner of Police H.C. Ugwu confronted Ujah about his reports on ongoing violence in Kwande, an area in Benue State where politically backed armed militias have been fighting each other since contested local elections in March. Ugwu accused Ujah of portraying the state police as incapable of handling the crisis, The Sun reported.

Sources at The Sun told CPJ that the state governor's office had earlier told Ujah and other local correspondents to downplay the violence.

Johnson Babajide was released later the same day without charge.

JULY 21, 2004
Posted: July 29, 2004

Johnson Babajide, The Nigerian Tribune
HARASSED, ATTACKED

Babajide, a correspondent for the national daily Nigerian Tribune in central Benue State, was detained at his home in early morning and beaten by a group of supporters of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), according to local sources and press freedom groups.

Local sources reported that Babajide said the PDP supporters forcefully took him to the house of Benue State Governor George Akume, where he was again beaten before being handed over to local police. He was released later the same day without charge.

Local sources told CPJ they believe that the attack stemmed from recent articles Babajide had written about ongoing violence in Benue State between politically backed armed militias. The violence flared in March in Kwande after disputed local elections. Kwande is an area in Benue State where many residents are sympathetic to the opposition All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). One of Babajide's articles had described an alleged attack on Akume's house by one of the armed militias, local sources said.

CPJ sources say that officials in Benue state have pressured local journalists to downplay the Kwande violence.

The Benue State governor's Chief Press Secretary Tahav Agerzua later issued a written statement denying that the journalist had been mistreated.

SEPTEMBER 4, 2004
Updated: November 1, 2004

Insider Weekly
ATTACKED, CENSORED, HARASSED

The Nigerian State Security Service (SSS) raided the Lagos news magazine Insider Weekly, arrested employees, seized equipment, censored the news, and shut its offices.

Armed SSS agents broke into the magazine's offices with sledgehammers, seizing documents, equipment, and money belonging to the magazine, according to local sources. They arrested the production manager, Raphael Olatoye, and brought him to the magazine's printing press, where they confiscated the entire print run of the magazine's September 5 edition, as well as the plates for printing it, local sources told CPJ.

SSS members returned to Insider Weekly's offices the following day and arrested the magazine's circulation officer, Cyril Mbamalu. They confiscated all 14 of the publication's computers, as well as other equipment. SSS agents then sealed off the offices and replaced the locks. Local sources told CPJ that an unidentified dispatcher was arrested later when he arrived at the offices to pick up copies of the magazine for distribution. The dispatcher was later released.

Olatoye and Mbamalu were released without charge on September 10, but the magazine's offices remained sealed. Other employees went into hiding and feared for their safety, according to local sources.

On September 4, the SSS released a detailed statement justifying its actions that was published in the national Lagos-based daily ThisDay on September 5. The statement accused Insider Weekly of "attacking, disparaging and humiliating the person and office of the President and Commander-in-chief as well as some notable people in government," and defended the raid on national security grounds.

The statement then listed articles published in Insider Weekly since 2001 that the SSS alleged had insulted or undermined the presidency. For example, an October 27, 2003, article compared President Olusegun Obasanjo to former military dictator General Sani Abacha, and a "current" article implied that Obasanjo wants to amend the constitution to allow a third presidential term.

This is not the first time that Nigerian authorities have targeted Insider Weekly for its critical stance toward Obasanjo's administration. In November 2003, police detained the magazine's editor-in-chief, Osa Director, and two of its directors, Janet Mba-Afolabi and Chuks Onwudinjo, for two days and charged them with defamation and sedition. The charges stemmed from an article alleging that top officials in Obasanjo's administration were involved with criminal syndicates that steal oil in the southern Niger Delta region. The charges have not been withdrawn, despite protests by many local journalists.

In October 2004, the magazine regained the use of its offices, and the SSS turned over all confiscated equipment, Raphael Olatoye told CPJ.


SEPTEMBER 9, 2004
Posted: September 22, 2004

Isaac Umunna, Global Star, Africa Today
IMPRISONED
Global Star
ATTACKED

Isaac Umunna, an editorial consultant to the private, Lagos-based weekly Global Star and general editor of Africa Today, a monthly news magazine based in London, was arrested at the headquarters of Nigeria's State Security Service (SSS).

On September 8, SSS members raided the offices of Global Star and arrested Umunna's wife, Hope Umunna, and two Global Star employees. The SSS agents confiscated documents and computers belonging to the publication and then went to Global Star's printing press, where they interrogated several of the paper's printers, according to Hope Umunna.

Hope Umunna was released the same day on the condition that her husband would report to the SSS. The two Global Star employees were also released at the same time.

On September 9, Isaac Umunna reported to the SSS headquarters in Shangisha, outside Lagos. SSS agents arrested him and detained him for six days at Shangisha. He was then moved to a detention center in the capital, Abuja, for another two days, before being released without charge.

After his release, Umunna told CPJ that his detention was linked to his journalistic work. Global Star, which covers Nigeria's eastern region, has frequently published articles on the activities of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). MASSOB, an organization based in eastern Nigeria, claims an independent state in the area for members of Nigeria's Igbo ethnic group.

According to Umunna, the SSS questioned him about whether he was involved in MASSOB. Tensions between MASSOB and the central government intensified recently, after MASSOB called a general strike by Igbo throughout the country in late August, according to news reports.

OCTOBER 25, 2004
Posted: November 29, 2004

Owei Sikpi, Weekly Star
ATTACKED

Thugs assaulted Sikpi, a reporter working for the privately owned Weekly Star, and warned him not to write about a local government official, according to Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and other local sources. Sikpi had recently written an article alleging that Steven Diver, chairman of the semi-autonomous Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, was involved in embezzlement and fraud.

MRA, a local press freedom organization, reported that Sikpi's assailants threatened him not to write about Diver again. Sikpi has petitioned local police to investigate the attack and bring the assailants to justice. The Weekly Star is based in the southern city of Port Harcourt, center of Nigeria's oil-producing region. The extent of Sikpi's injuries was not immediately clear, although MRA described the beating as severe.

NOVEMBER 10, 2004
Posted: January 18, 2005

Anambra Broadcasting Service
ATTACKED, CENSORED

Unidentified armed vandals ransacked and set fire to radio stations and transmitters operated by the state-run Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) during violent riots in southern Anambra State. The riots were sparked by a feud between the state's embattled governor, Chris Ngige, and Ngige's rival and former mentor, businessman Chris Uba. According to local journalists, rioters targeted the stations as symbols of Ngige, who has been battling a rival faction of the ruling People's Democratic Party led by Uba since May 2003, when Ngige came to power. Following the election, Uba accused Ngige of reneging on political deals.

Other government buildings were also attacked, including the governor's office and the offices of the Independent Electoral Commission in the state capital, Awka. Fred Chukwuelobe, a spokesman for Ngige, accused Uba of inciting the riots in order to provoke President Olusegun Obasanjo into declaring a state of emergency, according to the independent daily ThisDay. A PDP member who supports Uba denied the charge, ThisDay reported.

In December, Ngige approved 25 million nairas (about US $190,000) to replace the damaged transmitters and other equipment at the ABS stations.

NOVEMBER 11, 2004
Posted: January 18, 2005

Diran Oshe, Vanguard
ATTACKED

Oshe, a photographer working for the Lagos-based independent daily Vanguard, was assaulted by security guards while covering the trial of Major Hamza al-Mustapha, former head of security under the notorious military dictator General Sani Abacha. Al-Mustapha is one of five defendants accused of involvement in the 1996 attempt to assassinate Alex Ibru, then publisher of the leading independent daily Guardian.

Security agents guarding al-Mustapha assaulted Oshe when he tried to take pictures of the former security chief, according to local sources. The guards kicked Oshe and beat him with rifle butts until a court security officer intervened; the guards also smashed the journalist's camera.

Ibru was shot and badly wounded while driving from his office to his home in Lagos in February 1996. Police initially classified the attack as an attempted armed robbery, although nothing was stolen. The suspects' trial began after Olusegun Obasanjo was elected president in 1999 following Abacha's death. Local journalists believe the attack on Ibru came in retaliation for the Guardian's criticism of Abacha.

NOVEMBER 27, 2004

Posted: January 18, 2005

Stephan Faris, Time

EXPELLED

Faris, a reporter on assignment for the U.S.-based news weekly Time magazine, was expelled by Nigerian security agents upon arrival in Lagos from Nairobi, Kenya. According to a statement released by Time, Faris held a valid Nigerian visa and had informed the Nigerian Ministry of Information of his arrival. "However, Nigeria's State Security Service in Lagos told Mr. Faris he could not enter and held his passport until he was escorted onto a flight headed for Nairobi," Time News Director Howard Chua-Eoan said in the statement.

Faris was planning to report on unrest in the oil-rich southern Niger Delta, where violence has repeatedly erupted because of hundreds of local warlords demanding more control over resources and greater self-determination.