A group, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), on Saturday called on the heads of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and State Security Service (SSS) to independently investigate the last Wednesday’s assault of three photojournalists in Abuja and sanction their operatives.
While the NSCDC confirmed the assault, the SSS denies the involvement of its operatives.
But, MRA’s Programme Director, Ayode Longe, in a statement, also called for compensation for the affected photojournalists.
The trio of Olu Aremo of the Leadership newspaper, Olatunji Obasa of The Punch newspaper, and Mudashiru Atanda of The Sun newspaper, were reportedly assaulted by the security officers at the headquarters of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) in Abuja on January 6, 2021.
The photojournalists were at the NIMC headquarters to cover the registration of Nigerians for the National Identification Number (NIN) following the ultimatum given to all Nigerians by the Federal Government to link their phone numbers to their NINs.
There have been concerns about the health implication of the large crowds brought about by the Federal Government’s directive for the NIN registration during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NSCDC and SSS officials were said to have assaulted the photojournalists who were trying to capture the pictures of the crowd at the NIMC headquarters on Wednesday.
The security operatives were also said to have deleted the pictures taken by Mr Aremo and damaged Mr Obasa’s camera.
“I wonder how covering an exercise ordered by the government could have become an offence that could provoke such an attack on media professionals carrying out their legitimate duties.
“The photojournalists have a duty and a right to cover the exercise to enable both the government and other citizens know what is going on and evaluate the success or otherwise of the exercise.
“The attack on innocent journalists carrying out their legitimate duties was unwarranted, and constituted an unconscionable disregard for the rule of law,” Mr Longe said in the MRA’s statement on Saturday.
He added, “It is the responsibility of security and law enforcement agencies to protect journalists to enable them to carry out their professional duties without let or hindrance.
“It is therefore incomprehensible and unacceptable for officials and agents of the same security and law enforcement agencies to assault the very journalists that they are supposed to protect, especially where they have committed no offence.”
He called on the Commandant of the NSCDC and the Director of SSS “to carry out thorough and independent investigations into these attacks and ensure justice.
SSS, NSCDC react
The spokesperson for the Federal Capital Territory command of the NSCDC, Segun Akinbinu, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that the officers involved in the alleged assault were already undergoing disciplinary process.
Mr Akinbinu said the affected operatives had been withdrawn from the field and issued a query.
He said, “We don’t support bad eggs. So when we got the information, I placed calls to concerned media houses to apologise to them.
“We called for the immediate withdrawals of the officers and the admin and the legal departments are looking into it.
“When anything of such happens, they (the officers) will be issued a query, and after the query the disciplinary committee will meet on the response to the query and the judgement is with the legal department. And that is what Commandant Mathias did.”
But the SSS spokesperson, Peter Afunaya, denied the involvement of the agency’s men in the incident.
“Not true. SSS operatives do not assault. The Service’s SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) does not allow or encourage that,” he stated in an SMS sent to PREMIUM TIMES.
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