PREMIUM TIMES has uncovered the real reason the Nigeria police last week detained its reporter, Samuel Ogundipe.
Mr Ogundipe was lured into police net on August 14, where he was pressed to reveal a source for a story he wrote.
A day later, he was secretly arraigned before a Chief Magistrate Court in Kubwa, a suburb of Abuja, and accused of criminal trespass and illegal possession of document.
The document was a report of police investigation of the blockade of the National Assembly by the State Security Service (SSS).
Curiously, the alleged offensive story was published by many other news platforms, some even ahead of PREMIUM TIMES.
Fresh revelations have now shown that the ordeal of the journalist was indeed at the behest of the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, contrary to the claim of the police.
Multiple sources around him said Mr Idris is unhappy with the journalist over previous reports on his activities, and has been shopping for an excuse to “deal” with him.
Mr Ogundipe was taken into custody in a subterfuge operation, after the police deceived another PREMIUM TIMES journalist, Azeezat Adedigba, into answering summons for a fake case.
From August 11, Ms Adedigba was brought under pressure from one Emmanuel Onyeneho, who presented himself as a police officer investigating a case of fraud in which her name and number came up.
When she asked that she be formally invited if the police had any case against her, the police sent an invitation letter on Monday.
However, when the journalist reported to the offices of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Guzape on August 14, she and PREMIUM TIMES Editor-in-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed, were detained and asked to produce Mr Ogundipe.
Immediately Mr Ogundipe showed up, Ms Adedigba was asked to go, while the two journalists were driven to the police headquarters where Mr Ogundipe was made to write a statement. He was in police custody for three days.
A deputy commissioner of police, Sani Ahmadu, who interrogated the reporter insisted he name his source for the story on the police interim report on their investigation of the incident at the National Assembly.
After deceiving Mr Ogundipe’s lawyer that no action would be taken on the issue till 4:00pm on August 15, the police secretly arraigned the journalist before a court in Kubwa in the afternoon.
In a summary court sitting, Mr Ogundipe was charged with criminal trespass and theft of police document.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The judge granted the police five more days to keep the reporter in custody, but reviewed his decision and granted him bail on August 17.
Axe To Grind
PREMIUM TIMES understands that Mr Ogundipe was long targeted for persecution by the police authorities.
Insiders said Mr Idris had been angry with Mr Ogundipe since his report in February revealing the Inspector-General’s disregard for a presidential directive to move to Benue State in the heat of killings by suspected herdsmen in the state.
A story by Mr Ogundipe published by PREMIUM TIMES showed that contrary to the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari for the IG to move to the restive Benue, the man was actually elsewhere at the time.
With the escalating violence in the North-central state, the president ordered the police chief to move in and ensure restoration of peace and order.
The Benue State Governor, Samule Ortom, later said Mr Idris spent only a day in the state, contrary to the directive. He accused the police chief of complicity in the deadly crisis in his state.
President Buhari would later publicly express regret over the disobedience, promising to investigate why his directive was not obeyed by Mr Idris.
Multiple sources told PREMIUM TIMES that the February report is what Mr Idris is still holding against the journalist.
“The man was really angered by those reports on Benue, and it is probably what he is trying to avenge. I know that really touched his nerves,” said one source close to the police chief, who requested anonymity for fear of harassment.
History Of Intolerance
Traces of Mr Idris’s career profile reveal an officer with little regard for press freedom and intolerance of critical reportage.
His past life as commissioner of police in Kano and Nasarawa states is replete with instances of attempts to gag reporters, intimidate and harass them.
A journalist who served as correspondent when Mr Idris was commissioner of police in Kano recalled that he was summoned repeatedly to the office of the police chief over stories the police boss found unpalatable.
The journalist however requested anonymity because of his current work place policy.
“He would summon me a number of times through the police PRO and at one point he almost had me detained if not for the thoughtfulness of the then assistant commissioner.”
Another journalist was also summarily detained on the orders of Mr Idris for reporting a case of killing of two protesters in Kano in 2012.
It took the intervention of a friend to Mr Idris who was familiar with the reporter for the journalist to be let off the police hook.
Hir Joseph, a Daily Trust correspondent in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, was however not as lucky.
After reporting the participation of some policewomen in a protest over the abducted Chibok girls in the state, Mr Joseph was promptly taken in by the police.
He was detained by the police despite protests by rights groups, the employers of the journalist and the local chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists.
The NUJ later announced a boycott of police activities in the state in protest of Mr. Idris’ highhandedness.
The police later charged Mr Joseph before a magistrate court for “injurious falsehood.”
However, with mounting pressure and perhaps his inability to sustain the charge, the then police commissioner (Mr Idris) later soft-pedalled and had the case withdrawn.
The saying that old habits hardly die is true of Mr Idris who continued with his anti-media posture when he was promoted IG.
For instance, on New Year Day this year, the police arrested journalist and online publisher, Daniel Elombah, and his brother, Timothy Elombah, who also serves as editor of the website, elombah.com.
The two were arrested in Anambra by SARS operatives, the same unit that took in Mr Ogundipe. The two were later moved to Abuja for interrogation.
The arrest of the two journalists was said to be at the instance of Mr Idris who was unhappy with a piece critical of him published by the medium.
While the publisher was released after 10 days in detention, the editor was only freed after 25 days in police custody.
No charges were pressed against them.
As a security reporter, Mr Ogundipe followed and closely reported on the illegal detention of the two journalists.
In a petition to then Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo on August 15, the President of NUJ, Abdulwaheed Odusile, recalled some of the excesses of Mr Idris.
“I write this petition on behalf of thousands of Nigerian journalists, against the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris, over his incessant attacks on journalists and violent violations of their human rights, culminating in Tuesday’s arrest of a Premium Times reporter, Mr Samuel Ogundipe.”
The union described the action of the police chief as unacceptable, and a violation of the rights to freedom and free press.
“PREMIUM TIMES has a constitutional duty to inform the Nigerian people and hold public officials to account. It will neither be intimidated nor cowed by the filthy antics of the police or the administration,” commented Mr Mojeed on the reporter’s detention.