Journalist’s detention for ten days highlights threats to investigative reporters in Nigeria

Detaining a member of Nigeria’s Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) for ten days constituted a frontal attack on press freedom, said Reporters Without Borders (RSF) shortly after his release. RSF calls for better protection for investigative reporters in Nigeria and voices support for the FIJ’s essential reporting.

A network of journalists who specialise in investigating corruption in Nigeria, the FIJ reported on 2 May that one of its journalists, Daniel Ojukwu, had been missing since the previous day. It was only on 3 May that the police revealed that they had arrested him in Lagos on 1 May. He was transferred to a police station in Abuja, the capital, on 5 May and was finally released on 10 May.

After accusing Ojukwu of violating the cybercrime law in connection with an investigative piece about alleged embezzlement by a special assistant to former President Muhammadu Buhari, the police refused to release him on bail on 7 May although he satisfied all the bail conditions. RSF has learned that, while held, he could not get the medicine he needs for his asthma or consult his doctor.

Ojukwu’s ten-day detention comes against a backdrop of threats against investigative reporters in Nigeria. FIJ founder and editor Fisayo Soyombo, who has himself authored many investigative stories, continues to fear for his safety as a result of revelations published last year and in February 2024.

“Daniel Ojukwu’s release is a relief. This investigative reporter should never have been kidnapped and then detained by the authorities. These acts constitute a frontal attack on press freedom as well as persecution of a journalist who is part of an emblematic network dedicated to investigating corruption in Nigeria. Investigative reporters are targeted because their revelations draw attention to the level of corruption in this country. We call on the authorities to stop abusing their power and to protect all investigative journalists. RSF also voices strong support for the FIJ and its reporters, who need to be able to continue their work in the public interest.”

Sadibou Marong
Director of RSF’s Sub-Saharan Africa desk

The FIJ was founded in 2021 by Soyombo, who describes it as a non-profit organisation that “goes around the country investigating some of its most hidden stories in the hope that the results will spark change.”

Soyombo has himself been threatened in connection with his work. He began noticing suspicious activity on his social media accounts and began receiving death threats from unidentified individuals after publishing an exclusive investigation in February 2024 on rice trafficking between Benin and Nigeria.

Published in the form of a documentary, his investigation revealed that customs officers took bribes to inform smugglers about police patrols. It also revealed that Ibrahim Dende Egungbohun, a man reputed to be close to President Bola Tinubu, was arrested several times for smuggling without ever being charged. 

Segun Olatunji, then editor of the FirstNews website, was held for two weeks in March without being charged after he published an investigative piece on 29 January about the alleged misuse of public funds by President Tinubu’s chief of staff. After the website’s management apologised to the chief of staff about the story, Olatunji resigned as editor for the sake of his and his family’s safety, he said in his resignation letter.

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