CSOs, Activists Demand  Release of Daniel Ojukwu, Protest at Force Headquarters Abuja

CSOs, Activists Demand Release of Daniel Ojukwu, Protest at Force Headquarters Abuja

By Ikenwa Charity

In a bid to secure the release of Daniel Ojukwu, a Coalition of Civil Society Group under the aegis of Action Group for the Protection of Civic Actors and human rights activists, Omoyele Sowore and Deji Adeyanju on Thursday in Abuja demanded the release of a journalist Daniel Ojukwu a journalist with Foundation for Investigative Journalism ( FIJ ) who have been in custody since Wednesday May 1 , 2024  as they  staged a protest at the Force Headquarters.

Ojukwu was transferred from Lagos to Abuja on Sunday May 5 and is being investigated by the National Cybercrime Centre ( NPF- NCCC )for alleged Cybercrime violation following a petition written by one Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, Senior Special Assistant on Sustainable Development Goals ( SDG ) to the former President Muhammadu Buhari.

The group expressed concerns regarding press freedom and shrinking civic space in Nigeria just as they vowed to continue to occupy the building until the journalist is released.

 Bukky Shonibare who spoke on behalf of the coalition expressed worries over the state of the Nigeria press.

Explaining that free press and public participation are fundamental pillars of democracy, Shonibare said that the recent abduction and continued detention of Daniel Ojukwu, exemplified disregard for the rule of law and democratic principles.

In her word, “Civil society organizations across the country are deeply concerned about the growing cases of attacks on press freedom, and the flagrant abuse of due process and the rule of law by the Nigeria Police under the Inspector General of Police, IGP Kayode Adeolu Egbetokun, Ph.D., NPM. ‘’

She narrated that ‘’Action Group on the Protection of Civic Actors, a Nigerian coalition of media and civil society groups working alongside international allies, sounds the alarm on the recent surge in attacks on press freedom and the silencing of dissent and civic voices.

A free press and public participation are fundamental pillars of our democracy. Thus, the continuous silencing of journalists and civic actors who hold power accountable undermines the provisions of Sections 22 and 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), which guarantees freedom of the press and freedom of expression, respectively.’’

‘’Furthermore, the coordinated use of state resources, the mischievous interpretation and hyper-application of laws, especially the Cybercrimes Act of 2015 which has now been amended, and the abuse of power and public institutions are all draconian tactics deployed to further shrink Nigeria’s fragile civic space. These tactics have no place in a democracy, where accountability and transparency in governance are essential.

Particularly, the recent abduction and continued detention of Daniel Ojukwu, a journalist with the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), exemplifies this disregard for the rule of law and democratic principles. Mr. Ojukwu’s fundamental human rights have been blatantly violated. Even though the Nigeria Police has filed no formal charges, he remains in custody. Additionally, Daniel’s unlawful arrest and detention contravenes the combined reading and cumulative effect of Sections 34, 35, and 41 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, which protects his rights to respect for the dignity of his person, personal liberty, and freedom of movement’’ she said.

Shonibare lamented   the intimidation of journalists by the law enforcement agencies as soon as they report, publish credible stories that does not appeal to an administration.

“Daniel Ojukwu’s case is the most recent in a recurring trend of similar attacks and harassment aimed at the media and other civic actors by Nigerian law enforcement and security agents. The familiar pattern these attacks seem to take is that the instrumentality of the Nigerian security apparatus is set loose on these individuals as soon as they express views unfavorable to the administration or in the case of journalists, as soon as they publish credible stories that cast the administration in an unflattering light. The expression of opinions, however critical they are of the government, is one of the critical bedrocks of democracy.

“Consequently, we unequivocally condemn Daniel’s abduction and unlawful detention as unconstitutional, illegal, immoral, and unbecoming in a country that claims to practice democracy. We maintain that for Nigeria to claim its status as the continent’s largest democracy, its institutions and law enforcement agencies must uphold established standards and procedures consistent with democratic norms. Until then, Nigeria cannot reconcile the title of the “largest democracy in Africa” with the practices and principles reminiscent of a police state” she stated.

Shonibare described the arrest of Daniel Ojukwu, as illegal, unconstitutional, immorale, and against every principle of fairness of justice in a democratic society.

She explained how Daniel Ojukwu was abducted on the 1st of May by the Nigeria Police without arrest warrant, remanded without remanded warrant.

‘’We cannot be a nation that looks like Banana Republic, every Nigerian Citizen must be protected, it is our right to be protected. Section 22 guarantees the freedom of the press’’

she urged IGP to release Daniel Ojukwu while calling for rights-based review of laws that are subject to vexatious interpretations amending them to reflect democratic norms and principles.

Speaking during the protest, the former presidential candidate in the 2023 general election and an activist Omoleye Sowore said that the Nigerian police under the leader of Kayode Egbetokun have continued to demonstrate its impunity and blatant disregard for the rule of law and democratic principles.

He called on the Inspector General of Police to order the immediate release of the just or face a nationwide mass action.

  Reminding the police of the amendment of Cybercrime Act 2025 by the National Assembly Sowore said the police has no right to charge any Nigerian including journalists with cyberstalking.

On her part, Digital Rights Advocate, Mojirayo Ogunlana decried the frequent intimidation, harassment of Journalists by the State Institution and the Law Enforcement Agencies.

She expressed disappointment over the outrageous charges that are brought against journalists for daring to get the right information and disseminate it to the good people of Nigeria, an action which she described as inappropriate.

According to her’’ The journalist job is clearly public interest profession, unfortunately you see them been held under terrorism act, you see them been held at the cybercrime act, you see them been held under criminal defamation laws in Nigeria, this is very inappropriate. We cannot continue to hold the press as if they are criminals, they are not criminals, these are professionals doing their duties.

As a lawyer I can tell you for free they have the guarantee right under the constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria, they can come up with section 45 and say that your right is not absolute but it will be if your publication, if your story, your reporting is against the public interest but this is not the case, oftentimes it is not the case.  ‘’

Condemning the abduction of Daniel while calling for the release of Daniel Ojukwu, ogunlana opined that ‘’what they have just done to Daniel Ojukwu is very very wrong, absolutely condemnable, and it is appropriate for FCID to release him but if they feel that they don’t want to free him or that he has committed a crime, they should charge him to court. But if at any time that they found out that it is an illegal detention, unlawful and unconstitutional detention, he deserves an apology not only from the police, even from the President of the federal Republic of Nigeria because this is a total breakdown of the rule of law’’ she expressed.

In response to the Coalition, Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, represented by the Commissioner of Police, Special Operations, Vungmoh Kwaimo, assured Journalists that they would do the needful.  

Also in response, the Commissioner of Police in charge of the Federal Capital Territory, Mr Beneth Igwe said that every Nigerian including the journalist have their right, he said when journalist commits offence, he or she will be arrested. He assured that journalist that the force will look into the matter and release Ojukwu if need be. He said that there’s absolutely no need for protest.

The civic society group at the protests includes: Enough is Enough Nigeria, Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO), Invictus Africa, Accountability Lab Nigeria, Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), Global Rights, International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), Dataphyte, Gatefield, BudgIT Foundation.

Others are ; WikkiTimes, Hope Behind Bars Africa, Partners West Africa, Media Rights Agenda, International Press Centre, TheCable, Premium Times, Digicivic Initiative, Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), BONews Service

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