The Federal Capital Territory Command of the Nigerian Police Force has denied conducting a raid on the Peoples Gazette newspaper’s headquarters.
On Friday, police allegedly conducted a raid on the newspaper’s Abuja headquarters and detained several staff members, journalists, and editors.
According to a report by Peoples Gazette, John Adenekan, an assistant managing editor, was taken away at about 12:35 p.m. by five armed police officers who broke into the paper’s office opposite NNPC Quarters in Utako.
The officers later returned to the office to arrest four other staff members, Ameedat Adeyemi, Grace Oke, Sammy Ogbu and Justina Tayani.
The officers declined to state the reason for their assault but demanded to see the paper’s Managing Editor, Samuel Ogundipe, and reporter Adefemola Akintade.
But both journalists were not available during the operation, prompting the officers to arrest Mr Adenekan in their stead, perpetuating an unconstitutional tradition of arresting associates in the event that people of interest are unavailable.
A reliable source within the police force confirmed to our correspondent that the security operatives raided the newspaper’s head office to effect the arrest of Ogundipe and Akintade who wrote a report on former Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai (retd.).
The action of the police came days after an Abuja-based Publisher, Isah Bello sued Peoples Gazette for allegedly defaming the Ambassador to Benin Republic.
The newspaper on June 23 reported that the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission raided and recovered items including 50 luxury watches from a purported residence of Buratai.
However, Bello, in the suit before a Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja, claimed the newspaper failed to respond to a letter dated June 28, 2022 seeking to clarify the source of It’s story.
According to him, the failure to respond to the inquiry was a violation of section 4(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011 and therefore is wrongful and illegal.
Filed by Osuagwu Ugochukwu, the publisher asked the court to prevail on the defendant to supply the information requested in his letter.
But reacting to the report, the Command’s Public Relations Officer, DSP Josephine Adeh, who spoke to our correspondent claimed that journalists and staff members of the newspaper were only invited for questioning over a petition written against them accusing the paper of defaming the character of Buratai.
DSP Adeh said:-
“Our officers did not raid any media house. We don’t raid media houses because we know better, and media houses are not criminal hideouts.
“Someone had written a petition accusing the newspaper of defamation of character. The newspaper was accused of defaming the character of the former Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai. However, we got a warrant from the court to invite them for questioning.
“So, the fact of the matter is that there was a petition against Peoples Gazette, and they are not above the law. So, if someone had written a petition against them, the right thing to do is to invite them, and that was what we did. We invited them for further investigation, and we carried the Nigerian Union of Journalists along on this matter. We’re not taking any action behind the NUJ, and there is also a warrant from the court to invite Peoples Gazette for questioning.
“We have no malicious intent for inviting them. Our officers went to Peoples Gazette office this morning to invite them to come to give a statement in response to the petition at the Utako police station. And as I speak to you, the NUJ Secretary is with them at the Utako police station as they’re making their statements.”