The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), has called Nigerian authorities to thoroughly investigate incidents involving at least 28 journalists and media workers being harassed and attacked while covering state elections and hold the perpetrators to account.
It said at least 28 members of the press were obstructed, harassed, or attacked while covering gubernatorial and state assembly elections across Nigeria on March 18 and 19.
“Nigerian authorities should swiftly identify and hold accountable those responsible for the recent attacks, harassment, and intimidation of journalists covering state elections and ensure that members of the press feel safe to report on political issues,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “Freedom of the press during elections, which of course includes journalists’ safety to do their work, is fundamental to the democratic process.”
On March 18, at least 10 unidentified men punched and used sticks to hit a TV crew with the privately owned broadcaster Arise TV after they used a drone to film voting stations in southwestern Lagos state, according to a report by their outlet, a statement by the International Press Centre, a local media group, and one of the crew members, correspondent Oba Adeoye, who spoke with CPJ by phone.
Nearby security officers did not intervene while the men attacked Adeoye, camera operator Opeyemi Adenihun, and driver Yusuf Hassan, but seized the drone following the incident. Adenihun said he received medical treatment the next day for a cut to his face.
Lagos police spokesperson Benjamin Hundeyin told CPJ by phone that police were investigating and that Adenihun was invited for questioning on March 20 but said he did not appear. Adenihun told CPJ by phone that he had not heard from police since he reported the incident on March 18.
In Ikeja, the capital of Lagos state, Ima Elijah, a reporter with the privately owned news website Pulse.ng and her camera operator were harassed and forced out of a polling unit by unidentified individuals who insisted that the elections at that polling unit should not be reported by the media, according to a report and Instagram video by the outlet.
Also in Lagos state, two officials from Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission prevented Chibuike Chukwu, a reporter with the privately owned news website Independent, from taking pictures or videos at a polling place, according to a report by the outlet and a person familiar with the case who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
In the northern city of Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, three state security officers slapped, punched, and used sticks to hit Edwin Philip, a reporter with private broadcaster Breeze 99.9 FM, on orders from a palace official at a polling unit, according to news reports and Philip, who spoke to CPJ by phone.
Philip had been inquiring about reports that the palace official had instructed some men to beat up a voter when the officers briefly seized his phone and began beating him. Philip received stitches at a hospital for a deep cut to his head and reported the incident to the police the same day. Nigeria’s Security and Civil Defence Corps condemned the attack and apologized on March 20.
Rahman Namsel, a spokesperson of the Nasarawa State Police, told CPJ by phone that he was unaware that the case was reported to the police and said he would investigate the matter.
In the city of Lagos, at least 10 unidentified individuals punched Amarachi Amushie, a reporter with the privately-owned broadcaster Africa Independent Television, on the back, punched AIT camera operator Aliu Adeshina all over his body, and chased them out of a polling place, according to the IPC statement as well as Adeshina and Amushie, who spoke to CPJ by phone. Neither journalist sustained a significant injury.
Also in Lagos, unidentified people chased AIT correspondent Henrietta Oke out of a polling place, and others confiscated AIT correspondent Nkiru Nwokedi’s phone at another polling place, returning it 20 minutes later following intervention from community leaders, according to that IPC statement and Nwokedi, who spoke to CPJ by phone.
In northern Kano state, dozens of unidentified men accused Ashiru Umar, editor and senior correspondent with the privately owned broadcaster Premier Radio, of filming them, grabbed his phone, and stomped on it at a polling place in Daladanchi, a town in northern Kano state, according to a report by the privately owned website Premium Times and Umar, who spoke to CPJ by phone.
The men beat Umar with their hands, sticks, and stones and attempted to stab him in the back with a knife. Umar was treated at a hospital for a swollen jaw, bruises, and minor cuts to his knee and hands and filed a report with the police, he told CPJ. CPJ’s calls and text messages to Kano police spokesperson Haruna Abdullahi did not receive any response.
In the city of Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, at least five unidentified individuals, including a masked man with an axe, chased at least 10 journalists after noticing them filming a voting station, according to the IPC statement, a report, and two of those reporters, Adejoke Adeleye, a reporter with the privately owned outlet PM News, and Yusuf Adeleke, a reporter and editor with the privately owned news website Newsflagship, who spoke to CPJ by phone. CPJ’s calls and text messages to Abimbola Oyeyemi, the state’s police spokesperson, did not receive a reply.
On March 19, an official from the Independent National Electoral Commission ordered four security officers to prevent Ayo Adenaiye, an Arise TV news correspondent, James Akpa Oche, a campus reporter at Bayero University Kano, Stephen Enoch, a reporter with Plus TV Africa, and at least three other journalists from various outlets from accessing a vote collation center in the city of Kano, according to a report by Premium Times, Adenaiye, Oche, Enoch, and another reporter who was there and spoke to CPJ by phone, requesting anonymity citing fear of reprisal. The officials had a list that excluded many journalists from entering the collation center, Adenaiye said.
CPJ called INEC national spokesperson Festus Okoye for comment but did not receive any response.
Hundeyin, the Lagos police spokesperson, responded to CPJ’s request for comment sent by messaging app requesting evidence that the attacks in Lagos state were reported to his office.