Pro-democracy, good governance and civil rights group, Concerned Nigerians, has condemned what it described as the harassment and planned arrest of Nigerian Journalist, Mr. Samuel Ogundipe of Premium Times.
In a statement signed by its convener, Comrade Deji Adeyanju, the group said that, Mr. Samuel Ogundipe, according to reports, is currently on the run after it was alleged that the State Security Services, SSS, has launched a manhunt on him for publishing an exclusive report on Premium Times on the rift between Chief of staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. Abba Kyari and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno.
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Ogundipe’s publication detailed how the National Security Adviser accused Kyari of undue and dangerous interference on matters bordering on national security and subsequently fired a warning memo to all service chiefs to desist from taking further directives from the President’s chief of staff, Kyari.
The group, In its press statement, said “at a time when Democracy is being entrenched and strengthened all over the world, Nigeria is sliding back into the dark days of military regime where citizens are being hounded for holding an opinion and publishing reports.”
The group further stated that these politically driven trials of dissents and perceived political enemies of President Buhari’s administration must stop.”
According to the group, “The planned arrest of journalist, Mr. Ogundipe represents an attempt by individuals in the security services and government to influence independent publications’ editorial policies or probably to close Premium Times online newspaper down.
“Premium Times had in the time past come under serious attack and harassment by the authorities for publishing an exclusive story on the Nigerian Police with its Editor-in-chief and some staff members arrested and detained.”
The convener of the group, comrade Deji Adeyanju stated that “Mr. Ogundipe is one of the best and purest journalists in Nigeria and his planned arrest is anti-democratic and affront on press freedom.” The group described the Buhari-led government as “a fascist regime and reminds the international community to be mindful of the assault on our constitutional democracy,” noting that “this is not the first time the regime will be going after the media,” citing the recent case of Mr. Ohimai Godwin Amaize, a journalist with Africa Independent Television (AIT) “who fled the country after a plot by DSS to arrest him.” The group also said that, severally, journalists and bloggers have been arrested and jailed since 2015.
“We are absolutely concerned that the authorities will launch a manhunt on a journalist doing his job. If this kind of behavior continues, it’s just going to result in reporters being afraid to ask questions and report on issues of national importance.”
“Buhari’s administration must know that press freedom is one of the building blocks of every democratic society. Without it, we’re not the same country. Nigerians, regardless of their political beliefs, have the right to do their job without being hounded,” the group said.