Senegal: CPJ calls for release of detained Nigerian publisher

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) - Nigerian authorities should immediately release magazine publisher Yomi Olomofe on bail, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said.

In a statement made available to PANA in Dakar, Senegal on Friday, CPJ disclosed that members of Nigerian police detained Olomofe in Lagos, after men he had accused of severely beating him in June 2015 alleged that the publisher had assaulted and attempted to extort money from them.

"Arresting magazine publisher Yomi Olomofe for beating the men he says beat him to a pulp is nothing short of obscene," remarked Peter Nkanga, CPJ's West Africa representative. "Rather than blaming the messenger, police should energetically pursue those responsible for the crime."

The statement disclosed that on 25 June 2015, Olomofe, who publishes the monthly community magazine Prime Magazine, and McDominic Nkpemenyie, a correspondent with the state-funded Tide Newspaper, were investigating allegations that customs officers at Seme, on Nigeria's border with Benin, were complicit in smuggling, when more than 15 men attacked the two journalists.

The men allegedly hit Olomofe on his face and body with their fists and sticks until he lost consciousness.

According to CPJ, in a 30 June 2015 complaint to the Lagos State Police Commissioner, and a 1 July 2015, complaint to the Inspector General of Police, Olomofe identified his attackers and customs officers who had not intervened to stop the attack.

Police have not charged anyone for assaulting the journalists, Olomofe and his lawyer, Akin Osunsusi, told CPJ.

''In an October 2015 complaint to the police, the men Olomofe had accused of beating him themselves alleged that he had assaulted them and had attempted to extort money from them,'' the statement noted.

According to the press freedom watchdog, the publisher denied the accusations and he, along with his lawyer, said the first they had heard of them was after the journalist's arrest.

The statement pointed out that it was unclear whether the publisher was formally charged with a crime.

According to CPJ, a police officer at the Lagos State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), who gave his name only as Aminu, contacted by CPJ on 8 March, in the course of follow-up research into the initial incident, said that he had repeatedly invited the customs officers for questioning about the June 2015 beating, but that they had not come.

"Being service officers, I cannot just arrest them," the police officer said.

One of the customs officers, who Olomofe said had not intervened to stop the 2015 attack, told CPJ at the time that there was nothing he could do: The assailants were too "rowdy."

Meanwhile, Police at the SCID on 10 March 2016 told CPJ that they had been instructed to pass Olomofe's file to the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) in Alagbon, Lagos state, where Olomofe was being held.

Dolapo Badmus, Lagos State police spokeswoman, also told CPJ that police authorities in Abuja have jurisdiction over FCID and not the Lagos State Police Command.

Deji Elumoye, chairman of the Lagos state chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, told CPJ that police in Alagbon had refused to grant Olomofe bail on 10 March and that representatives of the union had not been allowed to see him in custody.

The statement disclosed that Olomofe and the Lagos state chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in January 2016 filed a civil lawsuit against the attackers and the customs service seeking compensation for the attack.
-0- PANA MLJ/AR 11Mar2016

11 march 2016 16:28:14

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