Batch of the Nigeria Police Force used to demonstrate the story.

By Marie-Therese Nanlong

Jos – The Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has condemned the Wednesday abduction of Mr. Madu Onuorah the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the independent online news outlet, Global Upfront newspaper, by operatives of the Nigeria Police Force for allegedly defaming a Reverend Sister based in the United States.

Although the journalist has been released on bail, the MRA said it is unacceptable that the Police are wasting government resources to go to such lengths to prosecute what should ordinarily be a civil matter, rather than concentrating their efforts on more important security issues in the country, and asked that the Nigeria Police desist from progressively becoming a “gun for hire” at the disposal of rich or powerful individuals or organisation who wish to silence journalists or to punish them for critical reporting.

A statement by MRA’s Programme Officer, Ms Esther Adeniyi, “MRA describes as appalling and unacceptable, Wednesday’s abduction of Mr. Madu Onuora, the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the independent online news outlet, Global Upfront newspaper, by operatives of the Nigeria Police Force for allegedly defaming a Reverend Sister based in the United States.

“MRA observes that the Nigeria Police has progressively become a “gun for hire” at the disposal of rich or powerful individuals or organisations who wish to silence journalists or to punish them for critical reporting, and by constantly diverting and wasting Nigeria’s security resources to hound journalists all over the country at the behest of government officials, other rich and powerful individuals, and organisations, the law enforcement agency has become incapable of performing its most important function of ensuring the security of Nigerians.”

She noted that it is ridiculous and nonsensical the claim by the Police that Mr. Onuorah was only arrested “after efforts made to formally invite him failed”, saying it is a clear indication that the journalist was never invited by the Police and that there was no justification whatsoever for the huge public resources wasted in dispatching policemen from Enugu and Ebonyi States to Abuja to abduct the journalist and take him to Enugu.

She added, “Public resources should not be used to protect the reputations of individuals, a Reverend Sister based in the United States would never write a petition to the Police for alleged defamation of character in that country but has chosen to do so in Nigeria knowing that she could successfully abuse the system by procuring the services of the Police for her vendetta.

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“We are extremely concerned that the Police are wasting government resources – human, material, and financial – to go to such lengths to prosecute what should ordinarily be a civil matter, rather than concentrating their efforts on more important security issues in the country, including in the South East. The world has since moved away from criminal defamation, which is inconsistent with regionally and internationally established norms and standards for the protection of the right to freedom of expression and media freedom. Nigeria cannot remain stuck in this antiquated practice.

“MRA finds appalling and unacceptable this tactic by law enforcement and security agencies of arresting journalists Gestapo-style, transferring them to other far away locations several hundreds of kilometres away from where they live and work, and detaining them incommunicado without any warrant of arrest and frequently without formally charging them with any offence.”

Although she expressed relief that Mr. Onuorah has now been released, she called on the Federal Government, particularly the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation as well as the Inspector-General of Police, to put an end to the culture of impunity for the repeated violation of constitutionally protected rights by the Police and other security and law enforcement agencies, urging that all those responsible for the journalist’s unlawful and unconstitutional arrest and detention should be held accountable.

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