By Eseoghene Emuke
The Centre for the Vulnerable and Underprivileged (CENTREP) has threatened to file a fundamental human rights suits at the Delta State High Court in Warri against the Inspector General of Police over the unlawful arrest of five journalists in Warri on Tuesday.
CENTREP, while condemning the arrest of the five journalists by operatives of the IGP Tactical Team, said it has decided to take the cases pro-bono to enforce the rights of the five journalists.
Men of the SARS, IGP Squad, had on Tuesday stormed the Press Centre of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Warri Correspondents’ Chapel to arrest Mr. Matthew Omonigho, a reporter with Daily Post and thereafter also detained four other his colleagues who had visited the Warri Police Area Command to know the crime Omonigho committee.
The four other journalists arrested and detained and further allegedly forced to give written statements are; Mr. Edeki Igafe (NAN Correspondent), Mr. Francis Sadhere (Business Day Correspondent), Mr. Onyekachukwu Meluwa (Punch Newspaper Correspondent) and Mr. Christopher Odamah (a Freelancer).
The five journalists were later released on bail following the intervention of the Delta commissioner for police, Mr. Hafiz Inuwa and the state chairman NUJ, Mr. Micheal Ikeogwu.
In a statement issued by the Executive Director of CENTREP, Mr. Oghenejabor Ikimi, stressed that the action of the IGP Squad violated the rights of the journalists and demanded a public apology from the police authorities over the development.
A copy of the statement made available to our correspondent on Friday, the rights group said it will seek for damages from the Nigeria Police Force over the action of her men who claimed to be hunting for another journalist without any formal invitation.
“Gentlemen of the Press, the attention of members of the Centre for the vulnerable and the underprivileged, (Centrep) have been drawn to the recent arrest and detention of five journalists from the Warri Correspondent Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) by Men of the SARS, IGP Squad at the Area Command Office, Warri for several hours in lieu of their colleague, Mr. Cletus Opukeme and without any formal charge and we condemn same as unlawful, unconstitutional and a violation of their fundamental rights.
“Thus in line with Centrep’s objectives of deepening our democracy and human rights culture in our polity, we have decided to take over the case of the above five journalists pro-bono by filing separate fundamental rights suits on their behalf against the Police at the High Court, Warri in a bid to defending and/or enforcing their fundamental rights.
“We are reliably informed by the journalists concerned that this Tuesday evening, a team of Men of the SARS, IGP Squad stormed the Press Centre of the Warri Correspondent Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and arrested the Correspondent of Daily Post Online, Mr. Matthew Omonigho in lieu of Mr. Cletus Opukeme, a journalist and a colleague of the former. Mr. Matthew Omonigho was in the process assaulted by his abductors who tore his jeans trouser and cut his belt before taking him to the Area Command Office, Warri where he was detained.
“It is in the light of the foregoing that we call on the Police High Command to offer a public apology in all the national dallies to the said journalists forthwith in line with Section 35 Sub Section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) or else we shall not hesitate to file separate fundamental rights suit in the High Court, Warri on behalf of all the said journalists against the police and claim damages at large cum an order to render public apology in all the national dailies, to the said journalist.
“We believe that such a suit would teach the Police on how to be more professional and to respect human rights of the citizenry while discharging their statutory duties”, the statement added.