Reporters Without Borders reiterated its dismay about police violence against journalists in Nigeria today after a newspaper photographer was beaten senseless on 22 December by police working for the Oyo state governor. It was 19th case of police brutality against the press to come to the press freedom organisation’s attention this year in Nigeria.
“Despite President Olusegun Obasanjo’s statements to the contrary, 2005 is ending as it began in Nigeria,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Police and thugs of all kinds take out their frustrations on journalists but we will never accept this routine violence by men in uniform. Nigeria will not deserve to be called a democracy as long as this kind of police violence continues to go unpunished.”
The attack on Sikiru Adeoye of the privately-owned Nigerian Tribune, which is based in Ibadan (the capital of the southwestern state of Oyo), occurred when he went to local government headquarters in the district of Agodi to photograph clashes between supporters of governor Rashidi Ladoja and those of his former political sponsor, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, a fellow member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who is trying to oust Ladoja in a battle for the control of Oyo in the run-up to local elections in 2007.
Adeoye was taking photos of Adedibu supporters who were attacking the governor’s offices and clashing with police responsible for the governor’s security, when the police approached him and said he did not have permission. He replied that he had been sent by the Nigerian Tribune, but police began beating him until he lost consciousness. He was taken to an Ibadan hospital, still unconscious and with the marks of many blows on his head and body.
In a Christmas and New Year message, President Obasanjo yesterday hailed this year’s “many happy and positive developments” and told his fellow-countrymen, “We must not allow ourselves to be deterred from our goal of a just, fair and prosperous nation by the enemies of progress.”