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DIA meets NPAN, NGE over editor’s abduction  

The Defence Intelligence Agency has met with the Nigerian Press Organisation, the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria and civil society partners over the abduction of the General Editor of FirstNews newspapers, Segun Olatunji, by military officers.

The development followed the demand for a probe by the Newspapers Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria, the Nigerian Guild of Editors, and the Nigerian Union of Journalists, among others into the March 15, 2024 abduction of Olatunji from his Lagos home.

The editor, a former Kaduna State correspondent of The PUNCH, was bundled into a van parked outside his house situated in Iyana Odo, Abule Egba and whisked away.

The International Press Institute, Nigeria later traced him to the custody of the DIA in Abuja, where he spent two weeks and was subjected to inhumane conditions, according to the editor’s narration upon his release.

The DIA is an agency under the command of Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Undiandeye, who, in turn, reports to the Chief of Defence Staff.

Olatunji was released following sustained pressure from media stakeholders, including The PUNCH.

While giving an update on Sunday, the BON, the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers, the International Press Institute, Nigeria Chapter, Media Rights Agenda, International Press Centre and the Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project, among others said the DIA had requested a meeting with media stakeholders and the civil society partners on April 14, 2024.

In a joint statement signed by the leadership of the organisations, including NPAN President, Kabiru Yusuf; NGE President, Eze Anaba; and NUJ President, Chris Isiguzo, among others, they noted that, “The military authorities said they acted to forestall a potential threat to national security and would have reported the matter to the National Media Complaints Commission – the National Media Ombudsman – if they had been aware of its existence.”

It further read, “After considering this disposition towards the Ombudsman, the NPO, BON and civil society partners, after reviewing the outcome of the April 14 meeting, have decided to refer the matter to the Ombudsman for adjudication. The report of the Ombudsman process would be made public.”

The group said it hoped that the parties concerned would seize the opportunity to settle the matter in the interest of law, order and respect for the provisions of Nigeria’s constitution.

Meanwhile, besides the specific issue of Olatunji, the group condemned “the increasing militarisation of the civic space, which has seen increasing use of excessive force by soldiers in matters that would have ordinarily been handled by the police.”

In 2023, the NPO inaugurated the National Media Complaints Commission. The President of the NPO, Yusuf, who is also the President of NPAN, said at the event held in Lagos that the initiative was “to watch the watchdog, serve as a co-regulator, be an independent forum for prompt resolution of complaints about the press, maintain journalism standards and defend the freedom of the press and people’s right to know.”

Yusuf noted that the initiative, driven by members of the NPO, including NPAN, the NGE, NUJ, BON, Guild of Corporate Online Publishers, the civil society and MacArthur Foundation, was for the media to regulate their work and conduct of their members.

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