/ 4 June 2024

Under Nigeria’s Tinubu, journalists are as unsafe as ever

Key Speakers At The 78th Session Of The United Nations General Assembly
A rights group has said that since Bola Tinubu became president last year, there have been several attacks on members of the media. Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On a hot afternoon recently, five rifle-wielding men approached Daniel Ojukwu on a street in Lagos, flashed a remand warrant bearing his full name and bundled him in their vehicle.

They were Nigerian police officers from Abuja. He is an investigative journalist.

At the State Criminal Investigative Department in Panti, Yaba, in Lagos State, the men handcuffed Ojukwu from behind and emptied his pockets. They didn’t let him call his lawyer or family members. Instead, they held him in a police cell for several days.

Once his family and employers tracked him down, Ojukwu was flown from Lagos to a detention facility of the Cybercrime Centre in Abuja. 

“Both Lagos and Abuja cells were horrible,” Ojukwu said. “I felt ill many times.”

After pressure from Nigerian journalists at home, civil society and the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Ojukwu was set free after nine nights in detention. His detention was the 45th attack on the media since President Bola Tinubu took office last May.

About 62% of these attacks were by state security, according to Edetaen Ojo, who

leads Media Rights Agenda, a Nigerian press defence organisation.

Despite promising to uphold press freedom in a meeting with newspaper owners in December, Tinubu’s record is on track to be worse than his predecessor Muhammadu Buhari, whose administration arrested 189 journalists over its eight-year tenure, according to a Global Rights report.

From 1986 to 2023, 1 034 Nigerian journalists have been detained, according to the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development. That makes the 28 attacks on journalists by state security over the first year of Tinubu’s administration equal to the annual average of the last 38 years, some of which were under military rule.

This article first appeared in The Continent, the pan-African weekly newspaper produced in partnership with the Mail & Guardian. It’s designed to be read and shared on WhatsApp. Download your free copy here.