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Magistrate orders assault and arrest of journalists

(MRA/IFEX) - On 4 April 2012, Magistrate A. A. Oshoniyi, of an Ikeja Magistrate Court, ordered the assault, beating, harassment, and detention of about 10 journalists. The reporters were at the court to cover the verdict on a coroner's inquest on the cause of deaths resulting from a series of ghastly accidents in Lagos, in 2010.

The journalists were brutalized, arrested and forced into a 14-seater police bus with number plate Lagos XJ 812 EPE. They were taken to Area F police command in Ikeja where they were further assaulted. Wale Busari was particularly targeted in the assault because, according to the policemen, he rudely resisted arrest.

Trouble started when a female prosecutor/social worker, dressed in mufti and identified as Rose, raised her voice and ordered journalists gathered at the corridor to vacate the premises. The journalists' attempts to explain their mission were unheeded and this led to an exchange of words and loud arguments. At that point, Magistrate Oshoniyi came out of her chambers and without finding out the cause of the arguments ordered the immediate arrest of the journalists.

Busari, a judicial correspondent with Silverbird Television, was brutalized and arrested; also targeted were Akinwale Akintunde of "Thisday", Shola Shoyele of Channels Television, Gbenga Shoyele of the "Nigerian Compass", Wahab Abdullah of the "Vanguard", Paul Dada of LEADERSHIP newspapers, and others. They were all arrested and taken to the Ikeja police command. Moreover, a Channels TV camera which was being used to capture the commotion was seized.

Mr. Olakekan Ajayi, one of the police officers, dealt a heavy blow on Abdullah of "Vanguard" newspaper which emboldened other court officials to assault, drag and beat the journalists they could lay their hands on.

The police officers involved threatened to deal ruthlessly with the journalists and actually carried out the threat using maximum force on the orders of their superiors.

The intervention of two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), Deacon Dele Adesina and Mr. Sebastine Hon, saved the journalists from severe harm. The matter went before the Area Commander who listened to the journalists who were later released on the instruction of the Court Registrar, Mr Ganiu Safari, and upon further intervention of the Chairman and Secretary of the Nigeria Bar Association, Ikeja branch.

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