Nigerian authorities should ensure a credible and transparent investigation into the death of journalist Onifade Emmanuel Pelumi, a reporter with Gboah TV, and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists has said.
Pelumi, 20, was last seen alive on October 24 in the custody of police officers in Lagos after he went to cover attempted robbery by unidentified youth at a government facility in the state capital, Ikeja, according to a family friend, who spoke with CPJ.
One of Pelumi’s colleagues, who went with him to cover the event, recounted to the family friend and Gboah TV’s management that he saw Pelumi injured with an apparent gunshot wound in a jacket labelled “press” being taken by officers along with some of the youth into a police van, according to a report by Premium Times and a video posted by Gboah TV on Facebook.
The reports, which did not identify the colleague by name, said police had attacked the crowd with gunfire and swords.
“Authorities in Nigeria must investigate and make public the circumstances behind the death of Onifade Pelumi, and immediately prosecute those responsible,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ Africa Program Coordinator from New York.
“This tragedy is compounded by the unconscionable fact that the journalist’s family and employer have been met with repeated obfuscation and delay in their attempts to locate Pelumi and discover what happened to him.”
âThis tragedy is compounded by the unconscionable fact that the journalistâs family and employer have been met with repeated obfuscation and delay in their attempts to locate Pelumi and discover what happened to him,â @angelaquintal said. https://t.co/PN8cN0YiTw— CPJ Africa (@CPJAfrica) November 16, 2020
From October 24 until October 27, Pelumi’s family and his colleagues conducted a search for him in various police stations and other parts of Lagos without success, according to the same report by Premium Times and a Gboah TV staff member, who spoke with CPJ on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
On October 27, the family and Gboah TV posted a missing person’s announcement on various social media platforms.
That day, the family got a call from the police, who scheduled an appointment with them for October 28 at their headquarters in Ikeja to discuss the possibility that Pelumi was in police custody.
On October 28, police told Pelumi’s family and colleagues that they had arrested five people at Agege on October 24 but that one of those arrested was dead and his corpse was deposited at a mortuary in Ikorodu.
Another appointment was then scheduled for October 29 but shifted to October 30, when the family went and found Pelumi’s corpse at the mortuary, according to Pelumi’s family lawyer, Lekan Egberongbe.
Following the identification of the journalist’s body, police said Pelumi was not among those they arrested on October 24, that they found his body on the ground at an unspecified location, and decided to put it in the mortuary, according to Egberongbe.
Egberongbe told CPJ that he and fellow lawyers had written this week to the police, the Lagos State Attorney-General, and the state government for updates on the investigation.
On November 11, a spokesperson for the Lagos State Police Command, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, told CPJ that Pelumi’s death had been reported to a new judicial panel of inquiry investigating allegations of police brutality, but declined to comment further.
Since 1992, CPJ has documented the killing of at least 11 journalists in Nigeria in relation to their work.
At least 12 others have been killed in less clear circumstances.