Nigeria: ECOWAS court hears suit demanding probe into murder of 11 journalists

The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, Abuja, has fixed May 19 for the hearing of a suit filed by Media Rights Agenda, MRA, seeking to compel the Federal Government to investigate the unresolved issue of 11 journalists killed over a period of two decades, as well identify and prosecute their killers.

The journalists were killed between 1998 and 2019, but no one was ever charged or prosecuted for any of the killings.

The suit will be heard through a virtual court session, according to the Court’s Chief Registrar, who said in a “Hearing Notice” that it has been set down for hearing at 10a.m.

The deceased journalists, over whom MRA lodged the suit, include: Mr. Tunde Oladepo, Bureau Chief of The Guardian newspaper’s Ogun State office, killed in Abeokuta on February 26, 1998; Mr. Okezie Amauben, publisher of Newsservice magazine, reportedly arbitrarily shot and killed by a police officer in Enugu on September 2, 1998;

Mr. Fidelis Ikwuebe, a freelance journalist for The Guardian newspaper, who was abducted and murdered on April 18, 1999 while covering violent clashes between the Aguleri and Umuleri communities in Anambra State;

Mr. Sam Nimfa-Jan, a journalist with Details magazine in Jos, Plateau State, who was killed in Kafanchan, Kaduna State, on May 27, 1999 while covering riots between Hausa Fulani and Zangon-Kataf groups. His body was found with arrows protruding from his back;

Mr. Samson Boyi, a photojournalist with the Adamawa State-owned newspaper, The Scope, who was killed by armed men on November 5, 1999 while on assignment to cover a visit by the then governor, Mr. Boni Haruna, to the neighbouring Bauchi State.

Others are Mr. Bayo Ohu, then an assistant news editor with The Guardian newspaper, shot by armed men in his home in Lagos on September 20, 2009; Mr. Nathan Dabak, deputy editor, and Mr. Sunday Gyang Bwede, reporter, both with the Light Bearer, a monthly newspaper owned by the Church of Christ in Nigeria, who were attacked and killed by a mob in Jos on April 24, 2010, while on a reporting assignment;

Mr. Zakariya Isa, a reporter and cameraman with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), killed on October 22, 2011 and for which Boko Haram reportedly claimed responsibility when its spokesman, Abul Qada, was quoted as saying that the militants killed him “because he was spying on them for Nigerian security authorities”;

Mr. Enenche Akogwu, a reporter and camera operator with Channels Television, killed in Kano on January 20, 2012 by gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram members; and Mr. Precious Owolabi, a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member serving his primary assignment as a reporter with Channels Television, who was shot and killed in Abuja on July 22, 2019, while covering a protest by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.

The suit was filed on August 16, 2021, on behalf of MRA by Abuja-based lawyer, Mr. Darlington Onyekwere, leading Ms. Chioma Nwaodike, Ms Obioma Okonkwo, and Mr. Sideeq Rabiu, against the Federal Government of Nigeria over its failure, refusal or neglect to protect the journalists or to carry out effective investigations into their killing and prosecute or punish the perpetrators, in alleged violation of the obligations imposed on it by various domestic, regional and international instruments.

Credit: Vanguard Nigeria

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