By Jennifer Ugwueke
For failing to investigate, prosecute and punish the murderers of the 11 journalists killed between 1998 and 2019, the Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has dragged the Federal Government to the ECOWAS Community Court.
In the copy of the suit which was on Monday made available to DAILY POST by Idowu Adewale, Communications Officer of MRA, the leadership of the organization are asking the court to direct the government to pay the families of each of the journalists N10 million as reparation.
Filed on its behalf by Barrister Darlington Onyekwere, along with Chioma Nwaodike, Obioma Okonkwo and Sideeq Rabiu, MRA claimed that despite the Nigerian government’s obligations under various domestic, regional and international instruments, “it has failed, refused, neglected and omitted to effectively investigate, prosecute and punish the killers of the journalists who were murdered while exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression and of the press or under circumstances connected to the exercise of these rights.”
It also said that unless the court intervenes, the government will neither adopt measures to protect journalists nor cause any real, transparent and impartial investigations into the killings of journalists in Nigeria while the perpetrators of “such dastardly acts will not be prosecuted and punished.”
The journalists named in the suit are Tunde Oladepo, Bureau Chief of The Guardian newspaper’s Ogun State office, killed in Abeokuta on February 26, 1998 by gunmen who entered his home early in the morning and shot him dead in the presence of his wife and two young children.
Others are Okezie Amauben, publisher of Newsservice magazine, reportedly arbitrary shot and killed by a police officer in Enugu on September 2, 1998; Fidelis Ikwuebe, a freelance journalist for The Guardian newspaper, who was abducted and murdered on April 18, 1999 while covering violent clashes between the Aguleri and Umuleri communities in Anambra State.
Sam Nimfa-Jan, a journalist with Details magazine in Jos, Plateau State, who was killed in Kafanchan, Kaduna State, on May 27, 1999 while covering riots between Hausa Fulani and Zangon-Kataf groups and his body was found with arrows protruding from his back; and Mr. Samson Boyi, a photojournalist with the Adamawa State-owned newspaper, The Scope, who was killed by armed men on November 5, 1999 while on assignment to cover a visit by the then State governor, Mr. Boni Haruna, to the neighbouring Bauchi State.
Others are Bayo Ohu, an assistant news editor with The Guardian newspaper, shot by armed men in his home in Lagos on September 20, 2009; Nathan Dabak, deputy editor, and Sunday Gyang Bwede, reporter, both with the Light Bearer, a monthly newspaper owned by the Church of Christ in Nigeria, who were attacked and killed by a mob in Jos on April 24, 2010 among others.
Vowing to tread all legitimate paths to seek for justice for the gruesomely murdered colleagues, the group urged the court to declare
that the killing of the 11 journalists is a “violation of their fundamental rights to life and freedom of expression and the press as encapsulated in the Constitution, the African Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ICCPR and Article 66(2)(c) of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty to carry out an effective and impartial investigation, and to prosecute and punish the perpetrators of attacks on journalists in Nigeria”.
They also pleaded with the court to, as a matter of urgency, direct the Federal Government to adequately investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of attacks against the journalists.
An order directing the government to take measures to prevent attacks on journalists and other media practitioners, as suggested by them, should as well be pronounced by the court.