Friday, October 14, 2011

Arrest of The Nation editors: We acted on OBJ’s petition – IG

ABUJA — Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Abubakar Ringim explained yesterday that the police arrested four editors and three non-editorial staff of The Nation newspapers following a complaint lodged by former President Olusegun Obasanjo who alleged that a letter purportedly written by him to President Goodluck Jonathan which was published by the newspaper was forged.
Speaking on the arrest yesterday, the police boss insisted that the complainant in the matter, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, has the constitutional right to lay complaint to the Nigeria Police if his rights were trampled upon.
In a statement signed by the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Olusola Amore titled ‘IGP Clears Air on Arrested Journalists’, Ringim said seven members of staff of the newspaper were arrested and interrogated, pointing out that one of the staff at the centre of the complaint was still assisting the Police in their investigations while others have been released.
BRIEFING—From left: Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim, DIG Azubuko Udah and DIG Abubakar addressing newsmen recently . Photo: Gbemiga Olamikan.
The statement reads: “The attention of the Inspector-General of Police Hafiz A. Ringim, has been drawn to the case of criminal complaint instituted by an individual against members of a Nigerian daily newspaper.
“The IGP wishes to state clearly that the complaint emanates from an aggrieved individual who under the Nigerian Constitution has a right to lay complaint to the Nigeria Police.
“In the process of this criminal investigation, seven (7) members of the daily newspaper complained against were arrested and interrogated. However one of the arrested staff found to be at the centre of the complaint is still assisting the Police in their investigations, while the remaining six (6) have been released.
“Due to the perceived public interest in the matter, members of the public will be briefed from time to time on this criminal investigation”, he said.
House probes arrest of editors
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives yesterday mandated its committees on Police Affairs, Human Rights, Judiciary and Media and Publicity to investigate the arrest of four senior editors of The Nation newspapers and report its findings to the House within one week.
The passage of the motion was not without opposition as some members tried in vain to ensure that the motion which was brought under a mater of urgent National Importance by Hon. Zakari Mohammed did not get a mention in the House.
Mohammed who is the chairman of the House Committee on Media and Publicity informed his colleagues that the manner in which the journalists were allegedly arrested ‘in a Gestapo-like manner without warrant’ portend grave danger for democracy, adding that ‘for any democracy to survive, we must have a virile press”.
He said: “In the practice of Journalism it is unethical to disclose your source. The journalists were arrested on Tuesday because they published a letter allegedly written by Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo to our present President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. In Abuja, Yusuf Alli and Yomi Odunuga were arrested by security operatives from Force Headquarters and were kept for over 24 hours. Some were released.
“The issue at stake is that the security agencies wanted to know where they got the letter from. And their offence is that they refused to disclose their source. And we all know it’s against the ethics of the profession to divulge your source.
“In this hallowed chamber, we passed the FOI Act. If we pass a law, we should stand by it. Those that were arrested were not armed but were merely earning a living with their pens. If we allow this action by the security agencies to go unchallenged, the next thing may be that lawmakers will be arrested for making certain contributions on the floor”.
The legislator warned that “If we allow this dastardly act by the security agencies to continue, it might deteriorate to the level that we may be arrested outside based on contributions we make on the floor of the House”.
In her reaction, Hon. Abike Dabiri noted that the manner in which the arrests were carried out was an indication that ‘“this is the beginning of dangerous threat to our democracy”.
Efforts by Reps Simon Arabo (PDP, Kaduna) and Warman Ogoriba (PDP, Bayelsa) to block the motion on the ground that the matter was in court proved abortive as legislators, led by Deputy Leader Leo Ogor (PDP, Delta) countered them, citing provisions of section 88 of the 1999 Constitution which gives the parliament powers to investigate any person or authority in Nigeria.
Ajimobi condemns arrest
Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State has condemned the arrest and detention of four senior editors of The Nation newspapers by officers and men of the Force Criminal Investigations Department (FCID).
The governor, in a statement issued yesterday by his Special Adviser on Media, Dr. Festus Adedayo, described the incident as uncalled for and a sad recourse to the rule of might.
He said: “The arrest and detention of The Nation editors should be condemned in all its ramifications. It is nothing but a sad reminder of the inglorious military era when the freedom of the press was trampled upon with impunity”.
Yusuf Alli released
Meanwhile, the police yesterday released the Managing Editor, Northern Operations of the newspaper, Mr Yusuf Alli. The other six detained staff had earlier been released on Wednesday.
Alli’s release was said to have been facilitated by President Goodluck Jonathan. Reacting to the release, National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Mallam Mohammed Garuba said: “I am indeed, very happy that our brother has been released and from the information we have, the intervention of Mr. President was responsible for his release actually.
“This is a clear indication that Jonathan’s government believes in due process and I want to believe that we are also gradually addressing the issue of press freedom.
“So with this development, I believe the media are partners in progress with government. I think that due process has been followed.
“So I must commend Mr. President and all those who have intervened especially members of the national Assembly, Senator Smart Adeyemi in particular who was there and other Senators who have also shown concern and of course members of the House of Representatives who also showed interest.
“So I want to urge the media not to feel bitter by this action. Rather we should consider this action as part of the hazards of the journalism profession and it would rather encourage us in discharging our social responsibility as enshrined by law and as expected by the people of this country”.