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Olatunji’s abduction: NPO, BON refer matter to Ombudsman

Segun-Olatunji 700×400

Leading Nigerian media groups including the Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO), Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), and Civil Society Partners met with the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) on April 14, over the recent abduction of Segun Olatunji, editor of FirstNews newspaper, by the military.

Olatunji was abducted from his home in Lagos on March 15, 2024. The abduction occurred as a response to stories published by his media outlet. He was detained for approximately 14 days and was blindfolded and flown to Abuja on a military aircraft shortly after his abduction.

During his detention, Olatunji experienced harsh treatment. He recounted that an officer tightened the cuffs on his right hand and leg, causing him pain for three days, resulting in numbness that persisted even after his release.

His abduction was executed in a dramatic fashion while he was at home with his family, watching television. Soldiers burst into his living room, having already taken his wife from her shop to lead them to him.

Olatunji’s ordeal drew attention, with several journalists’ unions and his media organisations demanding his freedom.

Giving updates on the matter, press groups and civil society partners that had earlier demanded an investigation into Olatunji’s abduction said that the DIA claimed they acted to address a potential national security threat and would have reported to the National Media Complaints Commission (NMCC) if they were aware of it.

Following the military’s position, the NPO, BON, and civil society partners have referred the case to the NMCC for adjudication.

“After considering this disposition towards the Ombudsman, the NPO, BON and the Civil Society Partners have decided after reviewing the outcome of the April 14 meeting, to refer the matter to the Ombudsman for adjudication,” they said in a statement jointly signed by the groups.

The report of the Ombudsman process would be made public, they promised.

The media groups and CSOs condemned the increasing use of military force in civilian matters, urging a return to civilian law enforcement where appropriate.

“Besides, the specific issue of Olatunji, the group condemns the increasing militarisation of the civic space, which has seen increasing use of excessive force by soldiers in matters that would have ordinarily be handled by the police,” they said.

Those who signed the statement include, Kabiru Yusuf, president, Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) / president, Nigerian Press Organisations (NPO) and Yemisi Bamgbose, executive secretary, Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON).

Others include Eze Anaba, the president, Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE); Chris Isiguzo, national president, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ); Maureen Chigbo, president, Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP), and Musikilu Mojeed, president, International Press Institute, Nigeria Chapter (IPI Nigeria).

The rest are Edetaen Ojo, executive director, Media Rights Agenda (MRA); Lanre Arogundade, executive director, International Press Centre (IPC), and Adetokunbo Mumuni, director, Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project (SERAP),