A day after provoking national and international outrage by arresting two journalists from a well-known online publisher, the police command of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has curiously asked the management of the Premium Times and the Nigerian Army to “peacefully settle their dispute.”
FCT Police Commissioner, Mohammed Mustafa, appealed to the military and the media to recognize the need to sustain a mutual relationship to protect national security and interest.
Mr. Mustafa made the call when the Publisher of Premium Times, Dapo Olorunyomi, and the publication’s judiciary correspondent, Evelyn Okakwu, returned to the Police Command Headquarters on Friday. The two journalists were arrested on Thursday, a move widely reported and condemned in Nigeria and around the world.
The journalists’ arrest and detention arose from a complaint filed by a Nigerian lawyer, Osuagwu Ugochukwu, alleging that their publication had defamed Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai, adding that the publication’s reports were boosting Islamist insurgents, Boko Haram. Mr. Ugochukwu was also behind a complaint that led to the police harassment of Sowore Omoyele, publisher of SaharaReporters.
The police commissioner urged the two parties to settle their differences amicably and out of court.
Plain-clothed security officers armed with a search and arrest affidavit had on Thursday arrested the two journalists at the paper’s head office in Abuja. After detaining the journalists for several hours, the police granted them administrative bail late Thursday evening.
The security operatives said they raided the publisher’s offices on account of a criminal defamation complaint filed by Mr. Ugochukwu, a lawyer who claimed he was representing Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai.
In his complaint, Mr. Ugochukwu claimed that Premium Times had engaged in a defamation of Mr. Buratai, adding that the paper’s reporting was “unpatriotic” and amounted to supporting and furthering Boko Haram’s terror campaign in the Nigeria’s northeastern zone.