MRA takes regional court to try to end impunity

In documents filed with the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, Media Rights Agenda holds the government of Nigeria responsible for the unsolved murders of 11 journalists between 1998 and 2019.

This statement was originally posted on on August 23, 2021.

Media Rights Agenda (MRA) filed a complaint with the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in Abuja over the failure of the federal government of Nigeria to effectively investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of the killings of 11 journalists killed between 1998 and 2019, and is asking the court to order the government to pay the families of each of the journalists N 10 million in compensation.

In the complaint filed on his behalf by Abuja-based lawyer Mr. Darlington Onyekwere, along with Ms. Chioma Nwaodike, Ms. Obioma Okonkwo and Mr. Sideeq Rabiu, MRA claimed that despite the Nigerian government’s obligations under various national instruments , regional and international, it has failed, refused, neglected and / or failed to effectively investigate, prosecute and punish the killers of journalists who have been murdered in the exercise of their fundamental right to freedom of expression and the press or in circumstances related to the exercise of these rights.

He also expressed concern that unless the court intervenes, the government will not adopt measures to protect journalists, nor will it conduct real, transparent and impartial investigations into the killings of journalists. in Nigeria, while the perpetrators of such despicable acts will not be prosecuted and punished. .

The journalists named in the lawsuit are Mr. Tunde Oladepo, bureau chief of The Guardian the newspaper’s Ogun state office, killed in Abeokuta on February 26, 1998 by gunmen who entered his home early in the morning that day and shot him dead in the presence of his wife and two young children ; Mr. Okezie Amauben, editor of Press service magazine, allegedly gunned down by a police officer in Enugu on September 2, 1998; Mr. Fidelis Ikwuebe, freelance journalist for The Guardian newspaper, which was kidnapped and murdered on April 18, 1999 while covering violent clashes between the Aguleri and Umuleri communities in Anambra State; Mr. Sam Nimfa-Jan, journalist with Details magazine in Jos, Plateau State, who was killed in Kafanchan, Kaduna State, on May 27, 1999 while covering riots between the Hausa Fulani and Zangon-Kataf groups and his body was found with arrows coming out of his back ; and Mr. Samson Boyi, photojournalist for the Adamawa State newspaper, The viewfinder, who was killed by gunmen on November 5, 1999 while on a mission to cover a visit by then state governor Boni Haruna to neighboring Bauchi state.

The others are Mr. Bayo Ohu, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian newspaper, shot dead by armed men at his home in Lagos on September 20, 2009; Mr. Nathan Dabak, Deputy Editor, and Mr. Sunday Gyang Bwede, Reporter, both at the Light bearer, a monthly newspaper belonging to the Church of Christ in Nigeria, who were attacked and killed by a mob in Jos on April 24, 2010, while reporting; Mr. Zakariya Isa, reporter and cameraman for the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), killed on October 22, 2011 and for which Boko Haram allegedly claimed responsibility when his spokesperson, Abul Qada, allegedly declared that the militants had killed him “because that he was spying on them on behalf of the Nigerian security authorities ”; Mr. Enenche Akogwu, reporter and cameraman with TV Channels, killed in Kano on January 20, 2012 by armed men suspected of belonging to Boko Haram; and Mr. Precious Owolabi, member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) who fulfills his main mission as a journalist with TV Channels, who was shot and killed in Abuja on July 22, 2019 while covering a protest by members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria that resulted in a clash with Nigerian police.

Provided under Articles 33 and 39 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999; Articles 4 and 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Articles 2 (3), 6 (1) and 19 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); Articles 4 and 66 (2) of the revised ECOWAS Treaty; and Principle 20 of the 2019 Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, the lawsuit also calls, among others, for the following remedial measures:

  • A declaration that the killing of the 11 journalists is a violation of their fundamental rights to life and to freedom of expression and of the press as enshrined in the Constitution, the African Charter, the Universal Declaration of the Rights of man and the ICCPR;
  • A declaration that the federal government has an obligation under Articles 33 and 39 of the Constitution, Articles 4 and 9 of the African Charter, Principle 20 of the Declaration of Principles, Article 2 (3) of the ICCPR and Article 66 (2) (c) of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty to conduct an effective and impartial investigation, and to prosecute and punish the perpetrators of attacks against journalists in Nigeria;
  • A statement that the federal government’s failure to adopt effective measures to protect and ensure the safety of the 11 journalists as well as its failure to take effective legal and other measures to adequately investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of the attacks against journalists and ensuring that the families of the victims have access to effective remedies constitutes a violation of the duty and obligation imposed on the government by the African Charter and the Revised Treaty of ECOWAS;
  • An order directing the government to take measures to prevent attacks on journalists and other media professionals; immediately conduct effective, transparent and impartial investigations into the murders of the 11 journalists killed in the course of their journalistic work or in circumstances connected with the performance of their duties as journalists; and identify, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of attacks against journalists and ensure that victims have access to effective remedies.

No date has been set for the prosecution’s hearing.

Elna M. Lemons