200 Journalists/Bloggers Write Vice President Osibanjo, Calls for Journalist Samuel Ogundipe’s Release
The #FreeSamuelOgundipe is gaining momentum as the hours pass by. The arrest on Tuesday of Samuel Ogundipe, a journalist with Premium Times and his continued detainment has continued to elicit outrage against the Nigerian Police in general and the IGP of Police in particular.
International organisations such as International Press Center IPC, Amnesty International, Pakistan Press Foundation, NUJ, and notable Nigerian lawyers, politicians etc, have condemned in totality the arrest of Ogundipe, and his detainment at SARS Head Office in Abuja, under the directive of the IGP. According to them, the arrest of Ogundipe is an affront on the fourth estate of the realm and an assault on freedom of the press, freedom of speech and due process.
Ogundipe was arrested over an information he published related to Duara the sacked DSS boss and the letter the IGP wrote to Osinbajo about Duara.
Ogundipe, who has been denied access to his lawyer, has also had his salary account with Ecobank frozen, all in a bid to get the information of who his source to the story is. However Ogundipe has refused to name his source, as it is unethical for journalists to name their source.
A group of concerned journalists and bloggers have called on Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo to prevail on the police to release Premium Times reporter, Samuel Ogundipe.
In a statement issued on Thursday 16th August, the Concerned Journalist group said “We, the undersigned organization, are calling for the immediate release of unjustly detained journalist Samuel Ogundipe.
As an organization advocating for press freedom, we are outraged by Samuel’s arrest and detainment, which are in direct violation of the ethics of his job as a journalist and his rights as a Nigerian citizen. Samuel is a well-known and respected journalist with Premium Times.
The Nigerian police accused Ogundipe of stealing secret documents. Ibrahim Idris, Inspector-General of Police, reportedly ordered his arrest over a story on Lawal Daura, sacked Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS).
The Nigerian Police asked Ogundipe to disclose how he obtained the letter IGP wrote to the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on Daura, but the journalist declined. According to Premium Times, the journalist was secretly arraigned before a magistrate court in Kubwa, Abuja, on Wednesday, without being granted access to his lawyers.
The Police accused him of violating Sections 352, 288 and 319 of the Penal Code. However, a review of the sections, however, indicated that they are not related to the charges but are about sexual assault and attempted murder.
The Nigerian constitution guarantees a free press. That means that reporters like Samuel can’t be subject to censorship by the government, nor can government use any measures to prevent the expression of ideas before they are published, or to punish reporters for doing their job. Prior restraint by any official means is clearly unconstitutional.
We are calling on the Nigerian police to release Samuel Ogundipe immediately. The unlawful arrest of Samuel violates his constitutional rights and is an attack on press freedom in our country.
Concerned Journalist Group
Samuel Ogundipe, the Premium Times journalist, opened up on why he was arrested by men of the Nigerian Police. The reporter said he was accused of stealing secret documents. Ibrahim Idris, Inspector-General of Police, ordered his arrest over a story on Lawal Daura, sacked Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS). The police had reportedly asked Ogundipe to disclose how he obtained the letter the IGP wrote to the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on Daura but the journalist declined in line with the ethics of the profession.
According to Premium Times, the journalist was secretly arraigned before a magistrate court in Kubwa, Abuja, on Wednesday, without being granted access to his lawyers. He was charged with criminal trespass and theft of police document. The newspaper said though Ogundipe’s lawyer was allowed access to him at the facility of the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) in Abuja on Wednesday morning, the lawyer was asked to leave only for him (Ogundipe) to be later taken to court “without prior notice”.
He was quoted as saying: “They brought me to a magistrate court in Kubwa where they arraigned me. The magistrate said they should detain me for five days. “They accused me of criminal trespass. They said I stole secret documents. The magistrate does not know the details, because they did not include in the charge that I am a journalist. I was not allowed to contact my lawyers.
“They also did not allow me to call anyone until the magistrate ordered them to let me make one call. I am currently using the registrar’s phone to make this call and they are collecting it.”
Some Nigerian activists protested on Thursday at the Nigeria Police Headquarters Abuja, they include Charly Boy, Deji Adeyanju, Segun Sowore Presidential Aspirant and Publisher of Sahara reporters among others. They demanded the immediate release of Ogundipe, but instead the Nigerian Police allegedly fired tear gas on the protesters.
Aside Ogundipe, the newspaper’s Editor-In-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed, and its education correspondent, Azeezat Adedigba, were also briefly detained by the police at the SARS headquarters in Abuja. But they were later released same day after spending hours in detention, leaving only Ogundipe at the headquarters.
A Deputy Commissioner of Police at the IGP Monitoring Unit, Sani Ahmadu, was heard directing lawyers to “rush to court” to obtain a warrant to detain Mr. Ogundipe. Apart from asking Mr Ogundipe to disclose his source, the police also accused the reporter, who covers the security sector, of publishing mainly negative stories about the police. Mr Onyeneho told Mr Ogundipe that they believe the journalist had written more negative stories than positive stories about the police and they considered that a crime.