Ben Adaji, Taraba State correspondent of The NEWS magazine was, on July 22, 2003, arrested and detained by policemen on the orders of Nwachukwu Egbochukwu, Taraba State Commissioner of Police.
According to Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)-Nigeria sources, Adaji’s arrest and detention at the Jalingo state prison is linked to a report which carried his by-line, and which was published in the July 21 edition of the magazine, headlined “Abacha in Police Uniform”. The story is said to have indicted the conduct of the Taraba State police commissioner.
The police hurriedly arraigned him before court (apparently to satisfy the constitutional obligation), without the benefit of legal representation, and subsequently remanded him in custody. Four days hence, Adaji is still in detention.
The arrest and detention of the News correspondent comes barely 24 hours after a police team stormed the head offices of the magazine in Lagos on Monday, July 21 demanding to see the editor over the latest edition of the magazine, dated July 28. The lead story of the edition of the magazine reported what the magazine alleged to be the many shady deals by the Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun. When they did not find the editor, the police team, led by Ighodalo, the Lagos state police command Public Relations Officer, left instructions for him to report to the office of the Lagos State Commissioner of Police.
This is the second time in as many months that Mr. Adaji has been picked up by the police. The journalist was first arrested on June 29, on a trumped-up charge of defamation of character along with the Taraba State chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Silas Jafta, as a result of the planned strike against fuel price increases on June 29.
The police commissioner has threatened to “deal ruthlessly with” Adaji, whom he publicly referred to as his number one enemy in the state.
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is concerned about the growing evidence of intolerance of critical opinion by the Taraba State authorities. MFWA appeals to the government to cause the immediate and unconditional release of journalist Ben Adaji.