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30 Journalists That Have Been Detained, Jailed By The Nigerian Government



The Nigerian press has been subjected to a number of repressive tactics by the government over the course of its 160-year history, including indefinite detention without charge, secret trials by military tribunals, torture by police and state security agents, disappearances, office bombings, and publication bans and seizures. Jailed By The Nigerian Government

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In the 1980s and 1990s, Nigeria’s military regime was notorious for routinely imprisoning journalists who dared to criticize the government.

In this article, we will look at some well-known cases of arrest, detention, and imprisonment suffered by members of Nigeria’s fourth estate.

Jailed By The Nigerian Government

Anthony Enahoro

Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro was a leading anti-colonial and pro-democracy activist in Nigeria.

Prior to becoming an activist, Enahoro had a distinguished career in journalism.

At the age of 21, Enahoro took over as editor of Nnamdi Azikiwe’s newspaper, the Southern Nigerian Defender, in Ibadan in 1944. Later, he worked as the editor of Zik’s Comet in Kano (1945–49), the associate editor of West African Pilot in Lagos, and the editor-in-chief of Morning Star in Lagos (1950 to 1953). Later, Enahoro founded the Mid-West Press, which published the Nigerian newspaper from 1950 to 1953.

The colonial government imprisoned Enahoro twice for sedition, first for an article mocking a former governor and then for a speech allegedly inciting Nigerian troops serving in the British army.

The British marked him as a firebrand, but even as he was jailed for a third time, he was beginning to reassess his position. Jailed By The Nigerian Government


Chris Okolie

In 1975, Chris Okolie founded the now-defunct New Breed magazine.

As the publisher of a biweekly news magazine, he occasionally clashed with the country’s military leaders.

Authorities detained him in 1977 because they did not agree with an article published in the magazine.

The government confiscated thousands of copies of the magazine and imposed a publication ban in June 1978.

After a nine-year hiatus, the magazine resumed publication in 1987. Jailed By The Nigerian Government

Jailed By The Nigerian Government

Tunde Thompson & Nduka Irabor

Tunde Thompson worked for the Lagos-based Guardian newspaper as a Senior Diplomatic Correspondent. Nduka Irabor worked as an assistant news editor for the same publication.

Thompson and Irabor published a report on diplomatic postings in 1984, during General Muhammadu Buhari’s military administration. Some high-ranking military officials were named in the report.

According to the report, Thompson and Irabor were victims of the draconian Decree 4 of 1984.

Journalists were prohibited from publishing “false statements likely to embarrass or bring government officials into ridicule or disrepute” under the law. The law was widely perceived to be intended to curtail Nigerian journalistic freedom.

The two journalists were arrested in February 1984 by the defunct secret police force, the National Security Organisation, NSO. They were later sentenced to one year in prison.

Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor were imprisoned for a total of 11 months, including the time spent awaiting trial. Jailed By The Nigerian Government


Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese & Yakubu Mohammed

Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese, and Yakubu Mohammed worked as journalists for Newswatch magazine.

In April 1994, the trio was arrested in connection with an article based on an interview with a retired senior military officer. General Abacha’s coup was described as a “putsch against democracy” in the article.

A few days later, they were charged with “sedition and criminal intent to cause fear and alarm to the public and disturb the public peace.”

In April 1994, General Abacha requested that the charges against the three journalists be dropped. He advised journalists to use “discretion and self-control” in the future.


Kunle Ajibade

In 1995, the military administration of Sani Abacha announced the arrest of a number of Nigerians on suspicion of participating in a coup attempt.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his deputy, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, were among those on the list.

During the coup plotters’ trial, Kunle Ajibade, Editor-in-Chief of TheNews magazine, published a story titled “No One Guilty: The Commission of Inquiry Presents an Empty File Regarding Suspects in the Coup d’Etat.”

He was arrested and later secretly tried by a Military Tribunal for being a “accessory” to a coup.

Kunle Ajibade, along with three other journalists, was sentenced to life in prison for treason on May 5, 1995.

There was international outrage, and Ajibade’s sentence was reduced to 15 years.

General Abacha died in office on June 8, 1998. On July 18, that year, Abacha’s successor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, released Ajibade.


George Mbah

On May 5, 1995, soldiers from the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) arrested George Mbah, an assistant editor (at the time), of Tell magazine.

He was charged with contributing to a report about a military officer who died during interrogation for his alleged involvement in a coup plot.

Mbah and other journalists were secretly tried by a special military tribunal in July. They were charged with treasonable felony accessory. The military tribunal sentenced him to life in prison.

The Provisional Ruling Council amended their sentences to 15 years in prison on October 1, 1995, Nigeria’s Independence Day. Jailed By The Nigerian Government

Jailed By The Nigerian Government

Chris Anyanwu

TSM’s publisher/editor-in-chief was Chris Anyanwu (The Sunday Magazine). The weekly publication dealt with political issues.

Anyanwu was arrested for treason in May 1995. This was after she published a story about a failed coup against Gen. Sani Abacha’s government.

A military court tried Anyanwu behind closed doors. She and several other Nigerian journalists were charged with “accessory after the fact of treason.”

The court sentenced her to life in prison on July 4, 1995.

Following pressure from national and international human rights organizations, the sentence was reduced to 15 years in October 1995.

She went partially blind while incarcerated at Gombe prison. Doctors warned that if she did not seek medical attention, she would lose her sight completely.

During her confinement, she received several international journalism awards, including the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.

Following President Abacha’s death and several protests from human rights groups around the world, Anyanwu was released on medical grounds by Abacha’s successor, General Abdulsalam Abubakar, in June 1998.

Anyanwu ran for and was elected Senator for the Imo East (Owerri) constituency in 2007.


 Mee Mofe-Damijo

Weekend Classique publisher May Ellen Ezekiel “Mee” Mofe-Damijo was arrested at the airport on her way to France in June 1994.

She was detained in connection with a story in her magazine about schisms within the ranks of the army.

After three days in detention, she was released as a result of legal proceedings initiated on her behalf by her lawyer.

Authorities initially refused to release her unless the magazine’s editor, Ben Charles Obi, agreed to come forward.


Ben Charles Obi

Ben Obi was the Editor of the weekly news magazine, Weekend Classique. Jailed By The Nigerian Government

He was arrested on May 1, 1995, for his reports on an alleged coup plot.

A special military tribunal tried him and Chris Anyanwu of The Sunday Magazine in July 1995, and both were sentenced to life in prison.

The Provisional Ruling Council commuted their sentences to 15 years in prison on Nigeria’s Independence Day in 1995.


Osa Director

Osa Director worked as the Kano Correspondent for Dateline, a sister publication of TELL magazine.

He was arrested in August 1995 after publishing a story titled “Buhari, Abacha at war over oil money.”

Director was held in solitary confinement in a police station 150 kilometers from Kano.

He was charged in Kano after 34 days in detention. He appeared in front of the magistrate while wearing leg chains and handcuffs.

Osa Director was charged with inciting discontent by publishing “false reports” in violation of sections 416 and 418 of Nigeria’s Penal Code. Until October 1995, he was denied bail.

When the magistrate finally granted bail to Osa Director, he ordered him to report to the State Investigation and Intelligence Bureau’s office once a month.

During the period of his bail, the magistrate also prohibited Director from publishing any material that could cause embarrassment to the government.

Jailed By The Nigerian Government

Godwin Agbroko

Godwin Agbroko was the Chairman of the ThisDay newspaper’s editorial board. He previously worked as an editor for the magazines Newswatch and ThisWeek.

In 1995, Agbroko was arrested and briefly detained twice for his editorial work.

Three members of Nigeria’s State Security Service apprehended Agbroko at his office on December 17, 1996, and drove him away in a white Peugeot.

His arrest was widely assumed to be related to his outspoken criticism of Nigeria’s military.

After spending five months in detention, he was released within weeks of receiving the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in 1997.

Unknown assailants shot him dead in his car in Lagos in December 2006. Jailed By The Nigerian Government



Paul Adams

In January 1996, Paul Adams, the Nigeria correspondent for the London-based Financial Times, was arrested and detained in Ogoniland. He was eventually charged with possessing seditious materials, which were documents published by the Ogoni Survival Movement (MOSOP).

Adams was released on bail after a week in jail. Eventually, the charges were dropped.


Ladi Olorunyomi

Ladi Olorunyomi was a staff member of “The News” and the wife of exiled journalist at the time, Dapo Olorunyomi (the publisher of Premium Times).

On November 3, 1997, around 1 a.m., a group of armed military intelligence agents broke into her home and arrested her.

The agents, who terrified her children, assured her that she would be back home in an hour. There was no explanation given for her detention.

Military intelligence officers questioned her about the whereabouts of her exiled husband Dapo. She was also asked to show them where her boss, Bayo Onanuga, the editor of “The NEWS,” was hiding, but she refused. Jailed By The Nigerian Government


Bayo Onanuga

Bayo Onanuga was the editor of “The NEWS”. He had been arrested and detained on numerous occasions.

In March 1995, he was detained without charge or trial for 13 days.

During this time, he was detained at the infamous Shangisha detention center in Lagos, which was used by the Lagos State Directorate of the State Security Service, and later at the notorious federal Investigations and Intelligence Bureau in Alagbon, Lagos.


Babafemi Ojudu

Babafemi Ojudu was the Managing Editor of The News/TEMPO/PM News.

Several times during the Sani Abacha regime, he was arrested, tortured, and detained.

On August 11, 1996, Ojudu was arrested and detained for three days at the notorious Shagisha prison on Lagos’s outskirts. An article in The News about Oil Minister Dan Etete was the catalyst. According to the article, Etete was awarding government contracts on behalf of the NNPC to his family and friends.

On November 17, 1997, he was arrested and detained at the Ikoyi prison. His offence was that he attended a seminar organized by Freedom Forum in Nairobi, Kenya.

It was reported in July 1998 (after Abacha’s death) that he was suffering from typhoid fever and jaundice, both of which were life-threatening, as a result of the unsanitary conditions in which he was detained and denied access to medication.

Babafemi Ojodu was elected Senator for the Ekiti Central constituency of Ekiti State in the April 2011 national elections.

President Mohammadu Buhari appointed Ojudu as Special Adviser Political Matters on January 7, 2016.


Ben Adaji

Ben Adaji, the Taraba Correspondent of The News/TEMPO magazine was picked up on December 4, 1997.

The arrest followed 37 days of intensive manhunt for writing a story titled; “War in Taraba” which “detailed the build-up and outbreak of a factional conflict in the Takum district of Taraba State and the roles of some military officers in this conflict.”

Also on July 22, 2003, Adaji was arrested and detained by policemen on the orders of Nwachukwu Egbochukwu, Taraba State Commissioner of Police.

Adaji’s arrest and detention at the Jalingo state prison is linked to a report published in the July 21 edition of the magazine, headlined “Abacha in Police Uniform”. The story is said to have indicted the conduct of the Taraba State police commissioner.

The police commissioner threatened to “deal ruthlessly with” Adaji, whom he publicly referred to as his number one enemy in the state.

The police hurriedly arraigned him before a court (apparently to satisfy the constitutional obligation), without the benefit of legal representation, and subsequently remanded him in custody for days.


Soji Omotunde

Soji Omotunde, the editor of the African Concord, was kidnapped by two security agents on October 25, 1997.

This occurred while he was driving down a street in Ikeja, Lagos.

According to reports, he was “tied, gagged, and bundled” into a car and driven to a “unknown location.”

At the end of the year, Omotunde was still being detained, reportedly in Abuja.


Nosa Igiebor

Six State Security Service agents arrested Nosa Igiebor, the editor-in-chief of Tell magazine, on December 25, 1995.

The arrest occurred as he was leaving his Lagos home to go to work. He was then taken to the headquarters of the State Security Service.

Nosa Igiebor was detained between December 1995 and June 1996.

Igiebor was placed in solitary confinement and was denied contact with his family, lawyer, or medical care.

His six-month detention was punishment for refusing to reveal his sources for articles critical of the military regime.

The Abacha government announced in January 1996 that Igiebor would be charged under “Decree 2 of 1984 for acts prejudicial to state security.”

In February, state security agents confiscated 100,000 copies of Tell, and Igiebor’s lawyer filed a lawsuit against the federal government for US$1,400,000. The lawyer was then himself imprisoned without charge.


George Onah

George Onah, the Vanguard newspaper’s defense correspondent, was arrested on May 10, 1996.

His arrest was related to an article he wrote about reshuffles, promotions, and other changes in rank among Nigerian military officers.

He was released later that day, but was arrested again on May 15. He was held incommunicado for days because he refused to reveal his sources.


Moshood Fayemiwo

On February 1, 1997, Moshood Fayemiwo, the publisher of the now-defunct weekly, Razor, was arrested.

He was detained at the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) in Lagos. He was kidnapped from Cotonou where he had been hiding as exile by security agents and brought to Lagos.

Fayemiwo, who had been temporarily living in exile in Cotonou, Benin, was kidnapped by Nigerian security agents and returned to Lagos.

Fayemiwo was reportedly tortured and his already poor health was deteriorating when he was imprisoned.

Jailed By The Nigerian Government

Mohammed Adamu

Mohammed Adamu, the Abuja Correspondent for African Concord, was arrested on July 27, 1997, at his Abuja residence by three security agents.

The agents did not explain why Adamu had been arrested, only that he had been “invited for a chat.”

His sin was that the July 14 edition of his magazine featured a cover story titled “Ali Mustapha: Ruthless Man Behind Abacha.”



Jenkins Alumona

Jenkins Alumona, the Editor of “The News” magazine, was arrested on November 8, 1997, at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) headquarters on Victoria Island in Lagos.

Three plain-clothes operatives claiming to be from the State Security Service (SSS) arrested the suspects on Awolowo Road in Ikoyi, Lagos.

Alumona was approached first by the security team’s only female member, who tricked him out of the NTA offices before having her colleagues apprehend and place him in one of two waiting vehicles, which drove him to an unknown location.

He was detained at the SSS detention camp in Abuja.


Onome Osifo-Whiskey

Onome Osifo-Whiskey, the Managing Editor of TELL magazine, was on his way to church with his children in the Lagos suburb of Ikeja on November 10, 1997.

He was obstructed by three cars containing ten gun-toting men and a woman who identified themselves as coming from the White House.

After six months in detention, Osifo-Whiskey was released.

Authorities provided no explanation for his release, nor did they explain why he was imprisoned, despite the fact that he was never charged with a crime.

Osifo-Whiskey, on the other hand, claimed he was arrested and detained after his magazine published a story last year claiming Nigeria’s military leader, Gen. Sani Abacha, was in poor health.


Akin Adesokan

Akin Adesokan, a reporter with Post Express , was arrested on November 12, 1997, by security agents of the Sani Abacha administration.

His crime was that he was carrying a photograph of the murdered Ken Saro-Wiwa near the Nigeria-Benin border. He was imprisoned at the SSS Detention Camp in Ikoyi, Lagos.

Along with his friend and fellow writer, Ogaga Ifowodo, he ended up in one of the country’s notorious detention centers (the SSS Detention Camp in Ikoyi, Lagos).


Adetokunbo Fakeye

Adetokunbo Fakeye, the defense correspondent for “PM News,” was arrested on November 4, 1997. This occurred while I was on duty at the Army Defense Headquarters in Lagos.

When Fakeye did not return to the newsroom that day, PM News management became concerned and began an investigation.

They had determined that Fakeye had been arrested, according to them. They also stated that his name is number 38 on a list of 38 people being held in one of the Defence Headquarters’ cells.

The army provided no explanation for the journalist’s detention. Jailed By The Nigerian Government


Rafiu Salau

Rafiu Salau was arrested and detained at the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) in Apapa on November 14, 1997.

Salau worked as the Administration Manager for Independent Communications Limited, which published TheNews/TEMPO/PM News.

He was arrested for the audacity of coming in to check on Adetokunbo Fakeye, the PM News reporter who had been detained about ten days earlier.


Agba Jalingo

Agba Jalingo, the Publisher of Cross River Watch, was arrested on August 22, 2019.

The arrest was made in response to a report he published on July 12, 2019. The report raised concerns about the whereabouts of N500 million approved for the establishment of the Cross River State Microfinance Bank.

Jalingo had informed the officers who had summoned him that he was out of state. He then requested that the invitation be rescheduled for August 26, 2019.

However, he was arrested in Lagos on August 22, four days before the scheduled date.

He was blindfolded, tortured, and handcuffed to a refrigerator while being transported by road to Cross River State.

On August 23, Jalingo was transferred to a detention facility in Calabar run by the anti-cult and anti-kidnapping police. He was detained without charge there.

During his trial, an audio recording of the judge saying that Jalingo’s life was in his hands was released.

Cross River state Governor Ben Ayade broke his silence on the case on January 27, 2020. He claimed Jalingo attempted to destabilize and blackmail President Muhammadu Buhari.

On February 2, 2020, Ayade apologized for lying to Jalingo about his attempt to destabilize Buhari.

Amnesty International accuses the Nigerian government, Cross River State, of manipulating the justice system in order to keep Jalingo imprisoned indefinitely on February 6, 2020.

On February 13, after 179 days in detention, Agba Jalingo was granted bail. Jailed By The Nigerian Government


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