The police in Sokoto State have apologised after some officers at a polling unit in the state violently charged at a PREMIUM TIMES reporter while he was on election duty.
Sokoto is one of the five states where the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is holding supplementary elections this Saturday.
Taiwo-Hassan Adebayo was amongst the journalists accredited to cover the election by INEC. He was monitoring the exercise shortly after polls opened in Magajin Garri Ward, Sokoto North Local Government Area. He was trying to access one of the polling units under the registration area when he was confronted by a police officer at about 9:30 a.m., Mr Adebayo said in a message to the office in Abuja.
“When I told him I was not a voter and showed my accreditation tag as a journalist, he still blocked me from passing,” Mr Adebayo said. “Upon insistence on my right to access, he attacked and broke my phone.”
Mr Adebayo said he warned the officer to respect his rights and stop acting illegally by denying him access to a polling area.
But rather than allow sense to prevail, the officer became even more aggravated, and summon more of his colleagues to join in attacking the journalist.
One of the police officers, who was holding a horsewhip, was called in to also attack Mr Adebayo, but persons nearby swiftly intervened and the matter was brought to an amicable end.
Sadiq Muhammad, the police spokesperson in Sokoto, called Mr Adebayo to apologise for the incident. He also promised to ensure a thorough investigation that would likely lead to severe disciplinary actions against culpable officers.
“On behalf of the entire police structure, I sincerely apologise for this unfortunate and unwarranted attack by our men,” Mr Muhammad sir. “It will not be swept under the carpet, it will be thoroughly investigated and we are ready to punish the officers for their disgraceful and unprofessional conduct.”
Security agents have repeatedly attacked journalists and observers on election duty throughout this cycle, despite strident demand by INEC that accredited journalists should be allowed to a free movement and inspection during elections.
During the first round of governorship elections on March 9, soldiers detained an accredited observer in Lagos after giving a ride to a fellow soldier. The observer sent hours in Nigerian Army detention at Ojoo Cantonment before he was released, a controversial act that added to widespread criticism of the military.
But some of the attacks suffered by journalists and observers in this year’s elections are not linked to security agents. Earlier today in Kano, the News Agency of Nigeria reported that some journalists were attacked in Gama, Nasarawa Local Government Area, where supplementary election has been underway since 8:00 a.m.
The news agency said political thugs were responsible for the attack, which the police have intervened to quell.
On March 9, a PREMIUM TIMES reporter, Kunle Sanni, was abducted by thugs while taking pictures of underage voters at the polling unit of Governor Samuel Lalong. The reporter was summarily released after being threatened and the multimedia deleted from his devices.
The attack on Mr Sanni and other similar acts of aggression against journalists by security agents and political thugs were condemned by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.