The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Lagos Council has strongly condemned the arrest of Mr. Yusuf Odejobi, a reporter with MMS Plus in Lagos yesterday by the Police over a news story on Dangote Refinery.
Four police officers had arrested Yusuf, handcuffed him and ridiculously paraded him like a criminal for more than five hours at the Zonal CID Zone 2 Command, Onikan, on the directives of Dangote Group Spokesman, Mr. Anthony Chiejina who had threatened to deal with the leadership of the media house.
In a statement signed by the NUJ Lagos Council Chairman, Mr. Leye Ajayi and the Secretary, Mr. Tunde Olalere, NUJ described the actions of the police as barbaric to have handcuffed and paraded Odejobi in a criminal way for more than five hours at the Zonal CID Zone 2 Command.
NUJ, therefore, demanded an unreserved apology from the police for the impunity against the publishers of MMS Plus by unjustifiably treating Odejobi as a criminal.
According to NUJ, the arrest of the reporter over a story on Dangote Refinery written by the news medium was tantamount to gagging the press and another attack by security operatives on the freedom of the press.
“The police invaded the headquarters of Kings Communications Limited in Lagos in the early hours of Tuesday. We gathered that the policemen acted on the directives of Dangote Group Spokesman, Mr Anthony Chiejina who had allegedly threatened to deal with the leadership of the media outfit for publishing a news story titled, “AMCON May Take Over Dangote Refinery As Liabilities Swell“.”
“It was also gathered that the Editor-in-Chief of MMS Plus, Mr Kingsley Anaroke has also been invited by the Police. The dastard action of the police is another threat to the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press as the Fourth estate of the realm. The police is learned enough to know that in such instance, there is room for legal actions instead of taking laws into their hands by dehumanizing a journalist,” NUJ said.
The union noted that the freedom of expression as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) guarantees the right to express views on issues through any medium of choice.
“Press freedom is also concomitant to the right to express views. The police should know that free expression is the bedrock of democracy and a necessary ingredient for an enabling free civil society,” the statement read.
The union stressed that security operatives are duty bound to join in promoting press freedom as enshrined in Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution. All overzealous activities of security operatives against the press must stop for democracy to survive and thrive.
NUJ advised the management of Dangote Group to resort to appropriate alternative measures rather than adopting an undemocratic move in gagging the press, noting that journalists as professionals have the responsibility to monitor, governance and report to the public.
“Section 22 of the Constitution imposes a duty for the media to hold government accountable at all times. Relatively, those in the private sector are not immuned to also being held accountable. We, therefore, view the action of the police against the publishers of MMS Plus as another act of impunity against the press. Let it be known that nobody can cage the press,” NUJ said.
It should be a symbiotic relationship between the press and the security operatives, rather than bullying and intimidating the press, the union stressed.