On November 9, 2019, some thugs suspected to be henchmen of the Government of Edo State in Nigeria, brutalised anti-government protesters and at least one journalist covering the attacks.
The protest was organised by a local civil society organisation, Edo Civil Society Organisations (EDOCSOs). Hundreds of people participated to denounce the reported privatisation of the state-owned Edo Specialist Hospital and subsequent increases in hospital consultation fees. However, the crowd was violently dispersed by thugs who arrived in unknown vehicles and clad in t-shirts with the inscription “Vigilante Edo Government House.”
The thugs, some of whom carried arms, assaulted the protestors and threatened to fire live ammunition if they did not disband, creating a stampede which resulted in many people sustaining injuries.
“We are saying that Edo State Specialist Hospital cannot he privatised. Healthcare is not a privilege but a right,” said Leftist Omobude Agho, Coordinator General of Edo Civil Society Organizations. “This is unacceptable. We were going on a peaceful protest until a team of boys branded with T-shirts, Edo Vigilante Government House, started brandishing all kinds of ammunition, including guns from a vehicle”.
Jomoh Ogirima, a journalist working with the television channel, Rave Television, was also attacked by the assailants as he was covering the incident. Origima’s camera was destroyed in the melee.
Meanwhile, the State Government has dissociated itself from the violent crackdown. Paul Ohonbamu, the Edo State Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, denied any knowledge of the perpetrators. He however, stopped short of condemning the assault.
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) condemns the wanton attack against the peaceful demonstration. The attack on the journalist was a blatant violation of press freedoms and freedom of expression. Nigeria’s constitution guarantees the rights to peaceful assembly and demonstration as well of freedom of information and expression. Therefore, we are calling on the state security to conduct an investigation into the repression and bring the culprits to face the law.