The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) FCT Council has condemned the arrest and subsequent detention of the editor and a reporter of an online newspaper, ‘TheNewsGuru.com’, Mr. Ediri Oyibo and Mr. Paul Utebor respectively by the police in Abuja.
This was contained in a statement signed by the Chairman, Comrade Emmanuel Ogbeche on Friday describing the arrest as unwarranted, absurd and unacceptable.
The statement said, “Oyibo and Utebor were invited and eventually detained on Wednesday, February 22, through a letter dated February 18, 2023 for an interview with the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Zonal Criminal Investigation Department.
“The invitation letter was signed by DCP Kabiru A. Shehu. The police claimed in the letter that they were investigating a case of criminal conspiracy, defamation of character, giving false information and threat to life against the journalists over a story on the paternity of a child.
“The journalists were detained upon their arrival at the station at the instance of a petition written by Adaobi Alagwu that they published a story where a former Skye Bank chairman, Tunde Ayeni, debunked the alleged paternity of her child.
“The journalists had insisted that such a story was not published linking Ayeni as father of the baby but a rebuttal where he (Ayeni) denied paternity.”
The journalists were said to have spent five days in detention under degrading conditions and have also been denied administrative bail despite meeting the conditions when they were asked to provide a public servant not less than level 14 as surety.
“Surprisingly, upon meeting the bail conditions, on Friday, February 24, the police hurriedly in a commando style charged them to the FCT Chief Magistrate Court located at Wuse Zone 6 after they had got wind that the court would not be sitting. The situation that made the police continue keeping them in illegal custody.
“The journalists and representatives of NUJ were made to sit in an empty court until an officer simply identified as OC Legal casually walked in, uttered that the journalists should bear until next week Monday before they can be granted bail.
“The police had on Wednesday, February 22, raided the homes of the journalists and made away with their laptops under the guise of carrying out their investigations after the journalists had voluntarily honored the invitation.”
“The continued detention and invasion of the houses of our members without a court order is a gross violation of their fundamental rights as stipulated in the 1999 Constitution as amended,” the statement added.
The statement noted that the Nigeria police were not a court of law and should not truncate the democratic values and principles with the arbitrary arrest and detention of journalists.
The Union therefore called on the police to allow the complainant considered the story offensive to go to court.
“The Nigeria Union of Journalists demands the unconditional release of Mr. Ediri Oyibo and Paul Utebor as a matter of urgency while the police should follow due process in the discharge of its duties,” the statement added.