Update to NGA32618.E of 3 September 1999 on the situation and treatment of journalists [NGA34444.E]

According to the UK Home Office's Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), "Nigeria has a long tradition of a vibrant and independently minded press" (Sept. 1999). This information is corroborated by Country Reports 1999, which claims that there is a "large and vibrant private domestic press that is frequently critical of the government" (2000, Sec. 2). According to the Europa World Year Book 1999, more than 50 newspapers are published in Nigeria, of which 22 are dailies (1999)

In its most recent country assessment, the IND stated that the "present civilian government has introduced a bill to abolish the 1962 official secrets act which severely curtails press freedom, and has called for the responsible use of press freedom" (Sept. 1999). The IND also claimed that the Nigerian "press remains active and is able to freely investigate and report" (ibid.). In a 3 November 1999 report by The Guardian, President Olusegun Obasanjo is said to have promised "to collaborate with the National Assembly to repeal all laws that impair press freedom."

However, according to a 31 March 2000 report by Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF),

While the situation in Nigeria has improved compared to the dark days of Sani Abacha's government, journalists are still frequent victims of police harassment. In 1999, about 20 were arrested and some were held for several days in various different states. Local authorities, who are less tolerant than the national government, do not hesitate to vent their wrath on the press.

In an 8 February 2000 Newswatch report, the chairman of Journalists for Democratic Rights (JODER), Adewale Adeoye, is reported to have said that,

despite the democratic dispensation in the country, government has not created a conducive atmosphere to report on human rights violation. He accused the government of regarding the media as a rival, a threat and an enemy. "Those in power continue to see the state as their personal property and expect the Nigerian media to dance to its tunes."

In a 13 April 2000 letter sent to President Obasanjo, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) stated it was "gravely concerned" by the "overall deterioration of press freedom standards in Nigeria," following a 4 April 2000 incident in which personnel of the State Security Service (SSS) allegedly roughed up several employees of the independent daily newspaper ThisDay while raiding its offices in Abuja.

Since September 1999, there have been several incidents in which journalists and editorial staff employed by Nigerian media have been threatened, detained or attacked by security forces personnel and other government authorities (IFEX 25 Feb. 2000). For a summary of a number of such incidents which took place between August 1999 and February 2000, please consult the attached report by the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX). Other examples of such incidents follow below.

In November 1999, one journalist was killed and another injured by unknown assailants during an armed attack on a convoy carrying the governor of Adamawa State, Haruna Bonnie (CPJ 1999). On 15 January 2000, Uche Maduemesi, correspondent for Tell magazine in Enugu State was allegedly assaulted by members of the state governor's security detail (MRA Feb. 2000). According to Media Rights Agenda (MRA), the governor subsequently apologized for the attack (ibid.).

A number reports published between February and March 2000 refer to incidents in which individuals employed by Nigerian newspapers and magazines were detained by law enforcement personnel (AFP 4 Feb. 2000; IFEX 7 Mar. 2000; RSF 21 Mar. 2000 MRA Feb. 2000). On 19 January 2000, Igba Ogbole, a journalist employed by Radio Benue Makurdi, was arrested by police in Benue State, and allegedly "stripped naked and detained in a cell full of hardened criminals, where he was severely beaten by the inmates" (MRA Feb. 2000). In a 4 February 2000 report, AFP stated that Major Adeyi, an assistant editor of Tell, had been detained after his magazine published an article claiming that a senator had called for a military coup. In March 2000, two editors and two journalists employed by News Flash, a Lagos-based newspaper, were detained by police for an unspecified period of time, allegedly in connection with the publication on 10 February 2000 of a report on drug trafficking (IFEX 7 Mar. 2000). On 9 March 2000, Union Oyadongha, the publisher of the weekly newspaper Banner, was detained by police in Yenogua, Bayelsa State, following publication of a report on "riots that killed several people in Bayelsa and Rivers State after the introduction of Sharia" (RSF 21 Mar. 2000).

According to IFEX, there were two incidents in March 2000 involving the seizure of newspapers by law enforcement personnel (6 Mar. 2000; ibid. 14 Mar. 2000). On 2 March 2000, security forces in Zamfara State seized copies of the Nigerian Tribune, Vanguard and The Guardian meant for distribution in the area (ibid. 6 Mar. 2000). One week later, security forces seized copies of the Independent Monitor and Banner News from news-stands in Bayelsa State (ibid. 14 Mar. 2000).

According to an IFEX report published on 9 February 2000, The Punch's correspondent in Sokoto State, Stanley Yakubu, was threatened by the state government for his "continuous negative coverage of activities in the state." In a 10 April 2000 report, AP claimed that Nduka Obaigvena, editor-in-chief of ThisDay, had received

several threatening phone calls in recent days warning him to stop publishing stories implicating President Olusegun Obasanjo's national security adviser, Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, in massive graft under the late dictator Gen. Sani Abacha.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 4 February 2000. "Nigerian Police Arrest Journalist over 'Coup' Story: Report." (NEXIS)

Associated Press (AP). 10 April 2000. BC Cycle. "Security Officers Raid Leading Nigerian Newspapers." (NEXIS)

Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ). 13 April 2000. "Nigeria: State Cracks Down on Independent Press." http://www.cpj.org/protests/00ltrs/Nigeria14April00pl.html [Accessed 15 May 2000]

_____. 1999. "Nigeria" http://www.cpj.org/attacks99/africa99/Nigeria.html [Accessed 10 May 2000]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999. 25 February 2000. http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1999_hrp_report/nigeria.html [Accessed 10 May 2000]

The Europa World Year Book 1999. 1999. 40th ed. Vol. 1. London: Europa Publications.

The Guardian [Lagos]. 3 November 1999. "Repeal of Anti-Press Laws Likely." http://nigerianews.net [Accessed 12 May 2000]

International Freedom of Exchange Clearing House (IFEX). 14 March 2000. "Alert: Security Operatives Seize Newspapers, Publisher Arrested." http://www.ifex.org/alerts/view.html/?id=6318 [Accessed 12 May 2000]

_____. 7 March 2000. "Alert: Two Editors and Two Reporters Arrested in Lagos." http://www.ifex.org/alerts/view.html/?id=6267 [Accessed 12 May 2000]

_____. 6 March 2000. "Alert: Security Agents Raid Publishing House, Newspapers Seized." http://www.ifex.org/alerts/view.html/?id=6252 [Accessed 12 May 2000]

_____. 25 February 2000. "Nigeria; Report on Press Freedom Violations: August 99 to Feb. 2000." (Africa News Service/NEXIS)

_____. 9 February 2000. "Alert: Journalist Threatened." http://www.ifex.org/alerts/view.html/?id=6099 [Accessed 12 May 2000]

Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), Home Office, London. September 1999. Nigeria Assessment. http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/ind/nig4.htm [Accessed 12 May 2000]

Media Rights Agenda (MRA). February 2000. "Attacks on the Press in January." http://www.internews.org/mra/MRM/feb00/attacks.htm [Accessed 12 May 2000]

Newswatch [n.p.]. 8 February 2000. Clarice Azuatalam. Vol. 31. No. 4. "Fight Human Rights Violations." http://www.newswatchngr.com [Accessed 12 May 2000]

Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF). 31 March 2000. "Africa-at-Large; 22 Participants in the Summit do not Respect Press Freedom." (Africa News/NEXIS)

_____. 21 March 2000. "Nigeria; Weekly Banner Journalist Arrested." (Africa News/NEXIS)


International Freedom of Exchange Clearing House (IFEX). 25 February 2000. "Nigeria; Report on Press Freedom Violations: August 99 to Feb. 2000." (Africa News Service/NEXIS)