Two PREMIUM TIMES staff arrested but later released Thursday by the Nigerian police returned to the Abuja headquarters of the force early Friday, amid widespread outrage that followed the raid.
Plain-clothed officers stormed the paper’s office Thursday and arrested the publisher, Dapo Olorunyomi, and judiciary correspondent, Evelyn Okakwu, after conducting search at the office.
They were later released on bail after several hours, and instructed to report at the FCT Police Command Headquarters by 8:00 a.m. Friday morning.
A highly-placed police source said the invitation could be a ploy to detain the journalists longer.
The police source said there were chances the two could be taken before a Magistrate’s Court.
“From what I understand, if they report tomorrow morning, they will be taken to a Magistrate’s Court and arraigned before a judge that will readily comply with the police arrangement and grant order for them to be detained,” the source said. “That way, they can then claim to be detaining them legally.”
The raid has sparked international condemnation, with the Amnesty International promising to launch an investigation into the motive behind it.
United State-based Committee to Protect Journalists called on the Nigerian authorities to drop all planned charges against the journalists and to desist from further attempts to intimidate the media.
“Arresting and charging publisher Dapo Olorunyomi and reporter Evelyn Okakwu is a transparent ploy to intimidate and silence Premium Times’ staff for their critical reporting,” CPJ West Africa Representative Peter Nkanga said.
Police spokesman, Don Awunah, told PREMIUM TIMES the raid and the arrests were carried out following complaints filed by lawyers for the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai.
Nigerians condemned the move as an attempt to intimidate the paper.
Shehu Sani, senator representing Kaduna central, said the arrests, coming weeks after the publisher of news website, Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, experienced similar treatment, as “worrisome and condemnable”.
“The increasing raids and arrests of Journalists by security agents points to a nation repulsive and allergic to free press and slowly gravitating towards authoritarianism,” Mr. Sani said in a statement Friday.
“Free press is sacrosanct. Elements in or out of Government intolerant to free speech and free press belong to the dark ages of military dictatorship.
“Attacks on the media damages the image of a nation and stains the credibility of its Government. The very media that championed our journey to freedom should not be rewarded with chains and shackles.
“It’s too early for those on the throne to forget their days in the trenches, when the media held the torch that alighted our path, through the dark and dicey path of struggle for change.”
A letter sent to President Muhammadu Buhari, signed by Kadaria Ahmed, and other eminent Nigerian columnists, including Pius Adesanmi, Okey Ndibe, and Sonala Olumhense also condemned the raid.
“We expect the security services, who after all are the custodians of our laws, to lead by example by respecting these laws,” said the letter.
“Instead, what we see is a disturbing trend that suggests not just an attempt to criminalise the important work that journalists in Nigeria do, but also a drive to frighten and cower and stop this critical constitutionally mandated work through the aggressive use of the state security apparatus. We view this as an abuse of office.”