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Private radio station threatened over broadcasts

(MRA/IFEX) - The management of the privately-owned radio station Rock City 101.9 FM, based in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital in southwest Nigeria, says the station, its staff and their families have been receiving incessant threats as a result of its programme broadcasts. It sees the threats as being politically motivated.

Mr. Niran Malaolu, the Chief Executive Officer of the station, complained that after most of the station's programme broadcasts, including news and audience participation programmes, staff members receive telephone calls threatening them over the news or the programme. Mr. Malaolu was previously a Commissioner of Information and Orientation in the state under Governor Chief Gbenga Daniel but resigned under controversial circumstances.

Giving more insight, Mr. Malaolu said: "Any time callers on the station's early morning phone-in programme ("Day Break Show", DBS) call public attention to a bad road somewhere, lack of potable water, impending public workers strike (. . .) the station's staffers will be inundated with threats of burning down the station, assassinating the founder and his wife, kidnapping their children, attacking the station's staffers etc."

Citing another instance, Mr. Malaolu recalled the case of former Speaker of Ogun State House of Assembly, Mrs. Titi Oseni, and another member, Omolaja Onopsanya, who went to the Abeokuta High Court to challenge their suspension by the House; on 4 February 2010, the Court upheld their suspension. "We started receiving threatening telephone calls immediately (after) the story was aired on the news at eight bulletin. The caller said no such ruling was given by the judge and that we should delete it. He repeatedly called Christie Cole, who read the news, and I asked her to tell the caller to come the following day."

He added that later, two people came to the station claiming they were from the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and were there on behalf of Mrs. Titi Oseni over the story. He said they issued several threats if the story was not discontinued, but that when he challenged them to convince him that they were from NBA, they left. Mr. Malaolu said he learned later that one of them was a lecturer at the State polytechnic in the Accountancy Department, while the other was a lawyer named Mutiu Agboke, and that they were not sent from the NBA.

On 10 March 2010, the management of the station petitioned the State House of Assembly, accusing the State's Urban and Regional Planning Board of subtle moves to cripple its operations and asking the House to intervene. The petition said that the activities of the Board amounted to trying to "deprive the people of the state of the opportunity of enriching discourse on how to deepen democracy in Ogun State". The Board had earlier written to the station informing station management of plans to demolish the building housing the station because it contravened certain planning rules, one of which was the illegal conversion of a residential building into a radio station, and the erection of a mast at a residential area. This, the management saw as another assault on the station by the government of Ogun State.

The intervention of the State House of Assembly on 18 March saved the station from being demolished.


RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Send appeals to authorities
- calling for a detailed investigation into threats of staff members of Rock City 101.9 FM and their families;
- asking the Ogun State government and the police to provide security for them to be able to do their work without harassment.


APPEALS TO:

Otunba Gbenga Daniel
Governor of Ogun State
Government House
Abeokuta
Mobile +234 (0) 8037470001

Mrs. Jokotade Odebunmi
Commissioner for Housing
Ogun State
Abeokuta
Mobile: +234 (0) 803 7211330

Mrs. Yetunde Kujore
Permanent Secretary
Ministry of Information and Orientation
Mobile: +234 (0) 803 9788352

Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovo
Inspector General of Police
Force Headquarters
Loius Edet House
Shehu Shagari Way
Area 11 Garki,
Abuja, Nigeria
Tel: +234 9 234 0633 / 0422
Fax: +234 9 234 0422
E-mail: [email protected]

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