The International Press Institute (IPI) today condemned the detention of Tony Ezimakor, Abuja bureau chief of the Nigerian newspaper Independent.
Nigeria’s Department of State Security (DSS) arrested Ezimakor on March 1, 2018. Authorities have not provided a reason for the arrest or charged Ezimakor with a crime.
However, Ezimakor’s lawyers have speculated that the arrest may be related to an investigative article Ezimakor published in the Independent on February 21. In the article, “Release Of Chibok Girls: How Swiss Agent, Govt Officials Stole Millions Of Dollars”, Ezimakor discussed an alleged cooperation between the Nigerian government and a Swiss agent to free some of the kidnapped Chibok girls. The girls’ situation is a sensitive issue in Nigeria and Ezimakor’s lawyers believe the article may have angered the authorities.
Several organizations have publicly condemned Ezimakor’s detention, including the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Citizen Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER) and the Muslim Rights Concerns (MURIC), in addition to several media outlets.
Shuaibu Leman, the National Secretary of NUJ, called on the government to focus on the rights of journalists and “make press freedom a priority”.
According to Nigerian law, a suspect cannot be detained for more than 24 hours without being charged. Nonetheless, Ezimakor has been held for more than five days with no clear justification.
IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen urged Nigeria to free Ezimakor.
“If the Nigerian authorities believe that Mr. Ezimakor has committed a crime, they should charge him and present evidence”, Griffen said. “Otherwise, his detention is arbitrary and he should be released immediately.”
Raheem Adedoyin, secretary of IPI’s Nigeria National Committee, yesterday issued a similar call on the government.
“Ezimakor should be released or charged to court if he has violated any Nigeria law”, Adedoyin said in a statement. “We join the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and other professional bodies to call on the government to clarify the status of the detained journalist.”
IPI will hold its 2018 annual World Congress in Abuja in June.