Nigeria ALERT: Newspaper Publisher, Others Arrested

Alfred Egbegi was arrested by the Police in Yenogoa, the Bayelsa State capital in the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria .Egbegi was arrested at about 12.45 Hours GMT by policemen from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) who trailed him to an office on Emmanuel Otitio Road in Yenogoa with the assistance of his printer, Olatubosun Isaac, who was arrested an hour earlier and forced to reveal the publishers whereabouts.

Issac was arrested at about 12 noon, along with Esther Bekeowei, a secretary in the newspaper’s office on Azikoro Road in Yenogoa. Isaac and Bekeowei were both taken to the state CID office where they were detained. Egbegi was arrested by five police officers led by an assistant superintendent of police, Alex Akhigbe.

He was driven away in a grey Peugeot 504 salon car with registration number NPF 4667 B. The publisher, who had been on the run since 10 April, reportedly shouted while being arrested that Charles Tambou, the press secretary to the deputy governor of the state, should be held responsible for his arrest.He said: “He (Tambou) has been threatening to cripple my business.

I stand by my story. Let him either refute it or go to court. They have planned to arrest more journalists.”The State Police Commissioner, Hafiz Ringim confirmed on April 12 that Egbegi was arrested “based on a petition from the State government”, adding that after investigations, he might be charged to court. Egbegi was released on bail in the evening of 12 April, hours after his arrest and detention, but was charged by the Police before a Magistrate’s Court in Yenogoa the next day, 13 April, on eight counts of conducting himself in a manner likely to cause a breach of the peace in “Charge Number YMC/163/C/2006: Commissioner of Police versus Alfred Egbebi.”

Further hearing in the trial was been postponed to 20 April 2006.Tambou said in a statement issued in Yenagoa on April 13 that “The era when the press is treated with kid gloves is over, as the law will be made to take its course.”Following the publication of a story about Egbegi’s arrest in the privately-owned national newspaper, The Punch on 12 April, the deputy governor is alleged to have threatened to beat up the newspaper’s correspondent in the state, Bisi Olaniyi.Olaniyi said the deputy governor shouted at him: “Look, I don’t care. I will beat you up. I don’t have time to report you to anybody. I will handle the case myself and thoroughly deal with you.”

But Tambou has denied that the deputy governor made any such threat, saying the deputy governor “only talked to him (the correspondent) verbally. “Accusing The Punch correspondent of not reporting the event objectively, Tambou said: “If any journalist behaves irresponsibly, we go to court. That is why we have taken that journalist to court.” The press secretary also denied that there was any rift between the governor and his deputy, alleging that Olaniyi and Egbegi were sponsored by a political opponent in the state to cause trouble between Jonathan and his deputy.

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