Nigeria Must End Excessive Use of Force against Protesters, Investigate Death of Journalist

Nigerian authorities must investigate the death of Alex Ogbu, who was killed during a police crackdown on Shiite Muslim protesters in Abuja on January 28, 2019.

Ogbu, a journalist with the Regent Africa Times newspaper, was not covering the protest but was rather passing by when he was hit by a bullet at the Berger area of Abuja where the protest was being staged. Two other persons sustained gunshot wounds during the chaotic protests.

After the incident, the police initially claimed in a statement (which failed to identify the victim as Alex Ogbu), that the victim “hit his head on a stone while running during the protest and died in the process.” However, a spokesperson for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) police, Anjuguri Manzal, later admitted that their men shot a ‘passerby’ and promised that the incident would be investigated.

The management of Regent Africa Times said that its legal team has been briefed on the incident and would soon come out with their reaction.

The death of Alex Ogbu comes barely two weeks after the killing of Maxwell Nashan, a journalist with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) in Adamawa State. Nashan was abducted from his house and later found tied and muzzled in a bush with his body hacked at several places.

In the last two years, there have been seven reported murders of journalists in Nigeria. Out of this number, none has been adequately investigated to apprehend the killers, much less prosecute them. The other five include Precious Owolabi of Channels Television, who was shot dead while covering a demonstration on July 22, 2019; Famous Giobaro, a desk editor with Glory FM in Bayelsa State; Lawrence Okojie of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) in Edo State; Ikechukwu Onubogu, a cameraman with the Anambra Broadcasting Services and Abdul Ganiyu Lawal, a freelance broadcaster in Ekiti State, all of whom were shot and killed by unknown gunmen in 2017.

This culture of impunity hardly encourages effective journalism practice as it is liable to induce widespread self-censorship. The MFWA therefore urges the authorities in Nigeria to conduct effective and expeditious investigations into the killing of Ogbu and the other cases in order to bring the perpetrators to justice.

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