After arresting webmaster, police detain Nigerian editor over critical story

Gidado Yushau, Editor NewsDigest and Adebowale Adekoya, a Professional Webmaster in Police Station after their arrest on an investigative report
Gidado Yushau, Editor NewsDigest and Adebowale Adekoya, a Professional Webmaster in Police Station after their arrest on an investigative report

Five days after some police officers in Lagos State arrested Adebowale Adekoya, a professional webmaster for NewsDigest, an Abuja-based online medium, the newspaper’s editor, Gidado Yushau, has also been arrested by detectives of Kwara State Police Command.

The NewsDigest’s editor and webmaster were arrested in a Gestapo-like style for publishing an investigative news story titled, “Inside Kwara factory where Indian hemp smoking is ‘legalized”.

PRNigeria gathered that Mr Yushau, who is also the Editor of the YouthsDigest, was arrested on Tuesday night and first taken to Wuye District Police Station, after the plain-clothed police officers stormed his residence in Abuja.

The factory, Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industry in Ilorin, is said to be owned by a former acting governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Sarah Alade.

The report, which was published on 19 May 2018, was authored by Alfred Olufemi, an award-winning campus journalist from one of the premier universities in the country.

In the report, it was stated that Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industry tolerated the smoking of cigarettes as well as Indian hemp by workers saddled with the responsibility of loading and off-loading processed and unprocessed grains in trucks without being sanctioned

It was also reported that the firm refused to respond to author’s inquiry on the situation, after he had put several calls and text messages to the industry’s hotline.

Four detectives, early Wednesday (today) morning, left the Wuye Police Station with Messrs Gidado and Adekoya in a blue vehicle, en route Ilorin for further interrogation and with the intention of arresting Mr Olufemi.

In a telephone chat with PRNigeria, lawyer to the arrested NewsDigest’s staff, Yunus Abdulsalam, said it defies logic that something that happened last year May will be resuscitated now, a year and a half after the report was published by the newspaper.

The lawyer, who explained that Gidado is a well-known young media entrepreneur, criticised the police for storming the residences of the young journalist and his webmaster, in a manner that is reminiscent of a sting operation.

On what the ‘illegal’ arrest portends for the future of campus journalism, Mr Abdulsalam, said: “This is a sad commentary, and an ugly chapter in the life of campus journalism in Nigeria. This kind of illegality is not a good omen for campus journalism. It is also a traumatic and horrifying experience for NewsDigest and YouthsDigest, as a credible online media platform to promote activities of budding writers and young journalists.

“Both NewsDigest and YouthsDigest are two notable media organisations that have created competitiveness among campus journalists. And as a matter of fact, the author of the investigative report, and other young writing talents who often contribute stories for the two mediums are reporters with untainted integrity.

“Thus, they are being engaged with by other credible and frontline media houses such as Premium Times, The Nation, ICIR, Blueprint and the Cable among others to serve as their campus correspondent and reporters. Had it been they are known for writing fictitious or libelous stories, would they have been engaged by the mainstream media establishments?

The lawyer insisted that the alleged ‘defamatory’ offence is one that permits both the NewsDigest’s Editor and webmaster to be granted bail, as such the police should do the needful without further ado.

“The alleged offence is not even one that necessitates arresting them. In fact, what the police did by arresting them can be compared to using a sledgehammer to kill an ant,” he said.

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