The discovery of Onifade Pelumi’s body was announced by Gboah TV, the Lagos-based Web TV for which he was working as an intern.
On 24 October, Gboah TV sent the 20-year-old Pelumi to conduct interviews in the north Lagos suburb of Agege, where residents had massed outside a government warehouse with the aim of taking food they believd to be stored here for alleviating the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Pelumi’s last interview with one of the residents was cut short by the arrival of the police. Lekan Egberongbe, a lawyer engaged by Pelumi’s family, told RSF that the police used violence to disperse the crowd and arrested Pelumi. According to another reporter who was there at the time, Pelumi was alive when the police took him away.
In the days that followed, the family visited many Lagos police stations in the hope of finding him. It was a week later that they finally discovered his body in a morgue in Ikorodu, several dozen kilometres from where he was arrested. “A gunshot wound was found on his body,” the family’s lawyer told RSF.
“We call for an independent, impartial, rapid and thorough investigation to clarify the circumstances that led to this journalist’s death in police custody,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “As we feared, the worst has happened and a new threshold has been crossed in the level of police violence that Nigerian journalists are also the victims of. It is absolutely unacceptable that a reporter should lose their life for covering a large gathering. We urge the Nigerian authorities to not let this crime go unpunished.”
RSF already voiced alarm on 22 October about the attacks on media and journalists that have accompanied recent protests in Nigeria. Several media outlets were torched and reporters were physically attacked in connection with major protests against violence by a police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) – protests identified by the #EndSARS hashtag on social media.
Pelumi is the third journalist to be killed while covering a large gathering or protest in Nigeria in just over a year. Two journalists, Precious Owolabi and Alex Ogbu, were killed by live rounds while covering protests in Abuja in July 2019 and January 2020 respectively. Those responsible have never been identified.
Nigeria is ranked 115th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.