Police release journalist Daniel Ojukwu from detention a day after protest

Daniel Ojukwu, a journalist with the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), detained by the Nigerian police since Wednesday, May 1, 2024, has regained his freedom.

SaharaReporters learnt that Ojukwu was released on Friday.

The journalist’s release comes a day after a coalition of civil society groups under the aegis of Action Group for the Protection of Civic Actors and a human rights activist, Omoyele Sowore staged a protest at the Force Headquarters in Abuja to demand his release.

On Thursday, the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of operations, DIG Ayuba Ede, revealed that Ojukwu’s release was at the discretion of the Inspector General of Police, Olukayode Egbetokun.

Ojukwu was secretly abducted by the police in Lagos on Wednesday, May 1 and transferred to Abuja about three days later.

He was in detention from May 1 to May 5, before being given access to his phones. 

The group expressed concern regarding press freedom and shrinking civic space in Nigeria and vowed to continue to occupy the building until the journalist is released.

During a closed-door meeting with a PUNCH Newspaper correspondent, Abiodun Sanusi, and a member of the Take It Back Movement, Oshioks Phillip, at the Force Headquarters on Thursday, DIG Ede promised to submit the demand of the protesters to IG Egbetokun and the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of the FCID, DIG Abiodun Alabi.

He said while details of the petition and the ongoing police investigation needed to be reviewed, the final decision on the release of journalist Ojukwu would be based on the discretion of the IG.

Ede said, “It is good that you all have come here; and the protesters demonstrated peacefully without violence. Also, our men had coordinated themselves well.

“We are looking into the matter. My office is in charge of police operations, and that’s why I’m interacting with you over the protest at the Force Headquarters.

“We have heard your submission concerning how the reporter wrote an article, and a petition was written against him, and he has been arrested. I will also contact the DIG in charge of the FCID to get details of the development as regards their investigation.

“Once I have the full details, we would relay the information to the IGP, the IGP is the person that would decide on the journalist’s release, he has the final say on the matter on whether to release him on bail or charge him to court.”

On May 3, an investigator hired by FIJ found that Ojukwu’s phone had last been active in the Isheri Olofin neighborhood of Ikeja, the capital of Lagos State, and FIJ was informed that the journalist was being held at the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID) in Panti Street on allegations of violating the Cybercrimes Act, the FIJ reported and Ridwan Oke, a lawyer for the outlet, told CPJ.

Ojukwu was arrested over his November report, which alleged that Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, paid 147 million naira (US$106,154) of government money for school construction into a restaurant’s bank account, according to the FIJ and its founder, Fisayo Soyombo, who spoke to CPJ.

The petition was written by a former National Legal Adviser of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Muiz Banire (SAN) on behalf of Orelope-Adefulire.

On Thursday, Sowore said the Nigerian police under the leadership of Egbetokun have demonstrated impunity and blatant disregard for the rule of law and democratic principles.

The former presidential candidate, therefore, called on the police chief to order the immediate release of the journalist or face a nationwide mass action.

He reminded the police of the amendment of the Cybercrime Act 2015 by the National Assembly, adding that the police have no right to charge any Nigerian including journalists with cyberstalking.