The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) condemns the harassment of Samuel Ogundipe and Musikilu Mojeed, reporter and editor respectively of the Premium Times for publishing a story suggesting a power struggle between President Muhammadu Buhari’s security chiefs.
The two journalists have gone underground since February 29, 2020 after receiving intelligence that the Department of State Service (DSS) is on the hunt to arrest and interrogate them to reveal their sources. The story cited a leaked memo from the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, instructing all service chiefs to stop taking instructions from President Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.
In a follow-up story, the Premium Times reported the unusual recall of all the senior army officers deployed to the National Security Adviser’s (NSA) office, which the newspaper said was being challenged by the NSA.
Following that story, Samuel Ogundipe’s professional e-mail was reported to have come under relentless hacking attacks. He has been receiving calls from strange numbers to confirm his identity.
Ogundipe and Mojeed have gone into hiding since February 29, 2020 after receiving intelligence that the DSS is on the hunt to arrest and interrogate them to reveal their sources.
On March 1, 2020, agents of the DSS went to the Abuja residence of Mojeed under cover. Local news outlets reported that two men believed to be operatives of the agency claimed to have a message for Mojeed, but the journalist’s wife, sensing danger, refused to open the gate and asked them to leave the information with her. They however left without dropping any message upon finding out that their target was absent.
Another set of security operatives went to Ogundipe’s neighbourhood and parked close to a fence overlooking the reporter’s apartment. The officers waited for hours surveying the apartment.
The International Press Centre, MFWA’s partner organisation in Nigeria has condemned the attempts to arrest the journalists as an act of intimidation aimed at preventing the journalists from revealing the truth.
“Journalists who seek to provide information to the public to promote accountability should never be subjected to any form of harassment”, IPC’s Executive Director, Lanre Arogundade said in a statement.
The MFWA condemns the attacks on the journalists, denounces their harassment and calls on the authorities to protect them as they are simply doing their duty, constitutionally mandated. The MFWA is also urging the management of Premium Times to continue to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the journalists and other staff of the newspaper.