With the increasing reports of attacks against media professionals, activists, and civic figures, the situation in Nigeria has intensified, particularly in the South-East region. These incidents highlight a disturbing trend of repressive actions to stifle freedom of expression, the media, and civic engagement.
Over the past month, a distressing number of six journalists and civic figures in Imo and Enugu States, located in the South-East, have encountered police harassment, unwarranted arrests, and even threats of imprisonment. These actions, which involve law enforcement, are often at the behest of state governors and other public officials.
A noteworthy case transpired in March 2023 when a Twitter user and social media influencer, Mr Chude Franklin Nnamdi, was apprehended for posting about alleged ballot box snatching during Anambra State’s governorship and State Assembly elections. The arrest was carried out by the Nigeria Police Force National Cyber Crime Centre (NPF-NCCC) in Abuja based on a complaint received via petition. Mr Nnamdi was accused of cyberstalking, citing a violation of Section 24 of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act, 2015.
One instance involves the embattled Medical Director of the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu, Dr. Monday Nwite Igwe. The closure of the School of Mental Health Nursing at the institution sparked concerns over alleged corruption in its management. Journalists reporting on these matters faced harassment from the Police, orchestrated by Dr Igwe, who sought police involvement from the Inspector-General of Police’s Monitoring Unit.
A public hearing for victims of insecurity and human rights violations in Awka highlighted the intimidation of Mr Michael Okechukwu Ilediagu, the publisher of News Centre, by the governor’s aides. The Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) and the Action Group on Free Civic Space (AGFCS) organised the hearing to provide a platform for victims to share their experiences. Mr Ilediagu testified about facing police intimidation and threats due to his reporting activities.
These incidents raise concerns about the misuse of police power and security agencies to target independent media, activists, and critical voices. This oppressive trend undermines democratic values and civil liberties. A report by the Action Group on Free Civic Space (AGFCS) titled Shrinking Civic Space in the Name of Security highlights the state’s use of security and counterterrorism architecture to stifle civil society, limit civic participation, and constrain civic space.
In light of these troubling developments, the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) urges the Inspector General of Police to uphold democratic policing values, prevent misuse of police powers, and ensure compliance with proper investigative procedures. This includes adhering to the directive standardising police investigation processes and respecting constitutional rights.
RULAAC emphasises the significance of freedom of the press and the importance of allowing journalists and media organisations to fulfil their roles without harassment, intimidation, or other unwarranted attacks. As civic actors and media practitioners continue to face threats, RULAAC calls for protecting media and civil liberties and a commitment to upholding the rule of law.