The Executive Council and entire membership of the Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN) has criticized the recent police invasion of the headquarters of Kings Communications Limited, publishers of the specialized newspaper, MMS Plus, and arrest of its reporter, Mr. Yusuf Odejobi on Tuesday, August 10, 2021, over the medium’s publication of a story allegedly deemed unpleasant by the management of the Dangote Refinery.
According to MARAN, that illegal breach of Kings Communications Limited head office by plain-clothed men purporting to be operatives of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) Zone Two Command Criminal Investigation Department (CID) disrupted the media organization’s operations for several hours that day and the Police should desist from such practice.
The police team had arrested and only released one of the medium’s journalists after being held for several hours in handcuffs and paraded across the NPF Zone Two Command Headquarters complex at Onikan, Lagos State.
“MARAN is filled with apprehension that the Editor of MMS Plus, Mr. Kenneth Jukpor, who is the incumbent Assistant Secretary-General has been “invited” to report at that police formation, even as a number of its operatives made subtle but most vile threat that they were in possession of every information of the personnel of Kings Communications Limited and their respective family members.”
“The angst of MARAN, the oldest formal grouping of accredited and professional journalists in Nigeria, over the security and safety of the media house’s personnel and their families in this reprehensible drama of impunity against MMS Plus is certainly not unfounded, bearing in mind the numerous cases of willful damage or destruction of lives, limbs and properties that lie gathering dust and unresolved in the cold cases files of the Nigeria Police across the country.”
“MARAN is sorely worried that the harassment of the personnel of King Communications Limited is treading the path of a resurgence of a culture of impunity against journalists in Nigeria being perpetrated by government security operatives,” the group said in a statement.
MARAN, in the statement signed by its President, Mr. Anya Njoku, passionately appealed to the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba to use his good office to intercede promptly to call the erring officers to order by having them cease and desist from further harassment of the MMS Plus team.
The maritime journalist group stated that it is hopeful of the expeditious resolution of the issue, noting that Baba has brought a new lease of life to bear on the headship of the NPF particularly in the very critical areas of adherence to due process and stakeholder engagements in the operations of the security agency.
“Incidentally, the police chief had perfected this commendable administrative template in his days as the Assistant Inspector-General, Maritime, from where he was raised to the NPF top post,” the statement read.
The group stressed that the Press is constitutionally entrusted with informing and enlightening the society as responsible watchdogs, noting that this right of the Press is inalienable, and any infringement on it reprehensible and utterly condemnable of any society ascribing any semblance of civilization to itself.
“A properly constituted court of competent jurisdiction remains the proper channel for trying and resolving any matter in which any party, be it government, individual or corporate organization, feeling aggrieved over whatever perceived infraction by the Press must turn to for redress. It is certainly not by resorting to the repugnancy of extra-judicial steps, as displayed by a section of a conglomerate,” MARAN said.
The full text of a statement issued Wednesday, August 11, 2021, by the MMS Plus Editor, Mr. Kenneth Jukpor read:
“A News Reporter with MMS Plus newspaper, Mr. Yusuf Odejobi was arrested, handcuffed and paraded for over five hours by policemen who had invaded the headquarters of Kings Communications Limited in the early hours, yesterday.
“The policemen acted on the directives of Dangote Group spokesman, Mr. Anthony Chiejina, who had 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’.
“When attempts to find the Editor-in-Chief of MMS Plus, Mr. Kingsley Anaroke; and the Editor of MMS Plus, Mr. Kenneth Jukpor, were futile, the armed policemen arrested Mr. Odejobi, a Reporter with MMS Plus.
“Odejobi was handcuffed and bundled into the police vehicle: a Blue Ford Ranger. While in the vehicle heading to the police station, the police officers threatened to use him as a litmus test or scapegoat. He was later taken to the Zonal CID, Zone 2 Command, Onikan where he said the Police paraded him like a criminal taking him from one office to another in handcuffs from 12noon to 5:30pm.
“According to Odejobi, there were four officers; two from Nigeria Police Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID), a legal officer and a man who claimed to work with Dangote Group.
“They asked for my personal details such as house address, family’s contacts, and work history, among others. They reminded me that they could also come to my house if they didn’t meet anyone at the office. any time they come again.
“I was told to write a statement and they handed me a Letter of Invitation for the Publisher of MMS Plus newspaper. When they came in the morning they had said they wanted to submit this letter of invitation for the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) and I wondered why they couldn’t just drop the letter and leave. While insisting on seeing the CEO, they got angry when news stories started coming out that they raided our office. They, however, allowed me to go at about 5:30pm based on Self-Righteousness after collecting N500 which was said to be for capturing,’ Odejobi stated while narrating his ordeal.
“Recall that the siege by the police is a follow-up to Chiejina’s threat to deal with the editorial leadership of the news outfit via legal action. This was after several failed attempts by Chiejina to get the Editor pull down the story. The Dangote spokesman instead of issuing a rejoinder or take legal action which he had threatened against our media house, resorted to bullying and intimidation by ordering policemen to beseige the office of MMS Plus, an act that is against information desemination in a democratic society and a threat to the survival of the media, the Fourth Estate of the Realm.
“It should also be on record that if the elite succeed in gagging the Press, we have no one to put anyone under check and society will be more brutish. Also, recall that Chiejina had searched for the photos of the newspaper’s Editor, Jukpor; and Publisher, Anaroke on Sunday and sent them to the Editor as a subtle threat, this again portends serious danger for newsmen in this digital age.”