UPDATED: Police release Nigerian journalist, Ojukwu, after nine days in detention

Daniel Ojukwu (PHOTO CREDIT: @Mazi_OJD)Daniel Ojukwu, the detained journalist with the Foundation for Investigative Journalism(FIJ) has regained freedom.

Mr Ojukwu was released by the police on Friday afternoon after spending nine days in detention.

FIJ Founder, Fisayo Soyombo, confirmed his release to PREMIUM TIMES on Friday.

In a statement also confirming Mr Ojukwu’s release, the chairperson of the Board of Trustees of FIJ, Bukky Shonibare, said the platform was taking advice from our lawyers “and will explore all legally permissible means to seek justice for Daniel Ojukwu”.

The statement noted that Ojukwu “was abducted by the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) of the Inspector-General of Police on Wednesday, 1 May 2024.”

The journalist’s detention triggered criticisms of the worsening press freedom in less than a year of President Bola Tinubu’s administration.

“Saddening and primitive as they are, moments like this are a refreshing reminder of the potency of a united public to hold power to account,” it added.

The platform hoped its planned legal actions would “prevent a recurrence of such blatant abuse of power and attack on press freedom.”

It acknowledged “the significant effect of the media pressure and, more importantly, Thursday’s protests by civic actors in modifying what had been a deliberate misuse of state power by the police.”

The statement thanked “local and international media organisations, civil society organisations, activists, lawyers, and active citizens whose efforts have helped secure the freedom of our reporter, Daniel Ojukwu.”

Journalist’s abduction

PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Ojukwu went missing last Wednesday, 1 May, with his phones switched off and whereabouts unknown to colleagues, family and friends. The following day, FIJ made a missing person report at police stations in the area where he was headed.

Mr Ojukwu’s family and employer would later find out that he was “abducted” by the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) of the Inspector General of Police, and held incommunicado at the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Panti in Lagos.

The reporter was on Sunday transferred to the Nigerian Police Force National Cybercrime Centre (NPF-NCCC) in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), where he was detained for an additional five days.

The police spokesperson, Muyiwa Adejobi, said the journalist’s arrest was based on a petition written against him, accusing him of violating the Cybercrimes Act, a well-known law that the Nigerian authorities have constantly used to suppress press freedom.

The petition was in relation to a story authored by Mr Ojukwu, revealing how the senior special assistant to former president Muhammad Buhari on sustainable development goals (SSAP-SDGs), Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, was said to have paid N147 million to a restaurant for the construction of classrooms in Lagos.

In March, the Nigeria Police Force National Cybercrime Centre (NPF-NCCC) invited and grilled the Chairperson of FIJ’s Board of Trustees, Bukky Shonibare, in Abuja during which they mentioned the story.

However, the police never invited Mr Ojukwu or any other FIJ staffer except for Ms Shonibare, Mr Soyombo told PREMIUM TIMES last Saturday, adding that Ms Shonibare honoured the police invitation when she was invited.

Stringent bail conditions, protest

Human rights activist and a presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore, said Mr Ojukwu’s initial bail condition had been met but the police refused to release him.

As soon as the conditions were met, the police shifted position adding more stringent conditions, he said.

“We presented the highest official of the NUJ in Abuja, and after verifying his property and place of work, they said they have now jacked the bail conditions to two directors who are civil servants with landed properties in Abuja,” he said at a protest on Thursday.

“It is an oxymoron for somebody to ask an investigative journalist to present corrupt people that he has been investigating. Our position is that he has not committed any crime. It was the position of his employer that we should present a surety, and as of now, we are yet to get any civil servants for his bail.”

Nigerian journalists and civil society organisations staged a peaceful protest at the Nigerian police headquarters in Abuja on Thursday.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.