The Diplomatic Correspondents Association of Nigeria has condemned the arrest of one of its members, Mr Nelson Omonu.
The association demanded the unconditional release of Omonu and called on the Federal Government to severely sanction all those involved in the despicable crime against humanity.
Omonu, the Publisher of Summit Post Online Newspaper, was believed to have been arrested by agents of the Government of Katsina State.
Chairman of the Diplomatic Correspondents Association of Nigeria, Mr Amadin Uyi, in a statement issued in Abuja, said the Diplomatic Correspondents Association of Nigeria received with shock and disdain, the illegal arrest of one of Omonu.
The association expressed extreme disappointment at the conduct of the Katsina State Government and security operatives who were used to perpetrate the act.
The group wholly condemned the action by the state government, saying that Omonu committed no crime apart from being a journalist practising in Nigeria
The association further expressed extreme fear and unease considering the death of Mr Tordue Salem, a Journalist with Vanguard newspaper in 2021 who disappeared under mysterious circumstances only to be declared dead by the police after several weeks in captivity.
“It is on record that with data released by the Reporters Without Borders in 2021, Nigeria currently ranks 120 on the World Press Freedom Index out of 180 countries ranked, a drop of five spots from its ranking in 2020.
“The ranking shows that Nigeria continues to be one of the most dangerous places to practice journalism in West Africa and the world at large, a situation made possible by action like these from the Katsina State Government which resolves to apply unorthodox methods of gross intimidation, illegal arrests and bullying to silence the press in the face of glaring mis-governance and widespread insecurity in the state
“The Association states that if Mr Omonu is not released unconditionally within the next 24 hours, it will send petitions to the United Nations, the United States Government, the United States Congress, the European Union and all relevant international partners to sanction officials of the Katsina State Government and the Police involved in this despicable act against its member and shameful crime against the freedom of the press
“Mr Omonu has committed no crime except being a practising Journalist in Nigeria and any government official not happy with reports from his online newspaper should approach the court of law to test his popularity with the courts.
“Besides, Nigeria is a country with laws and signatory to international conventions on press freedom and human rights and should not be abused by self-serving politicians who are currently benefitting from a hard-fought democracy to which the press was in the forefront of those that paid the ultimate price for freedom,” Uyi said.
On its part, the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), called for the immediate and unconditional release of Omonu whom it said, was whisked away in a commando-style by security operatives believed to be working on the orders of Katsina State Governor, Bello Masari.
Omonu, the NUJ disclosed, was picked up in Abuja at the early hours of January 1, 2022, and taken to Katsina in the most inhuman manner without prior invitation.
In a statement released yesterday and jointly signed by Comrade Emmanuel Ogbeche and Ochiaka Ugwu, Chairman and Secretary of NUJ FCT Council respectively, the union noted that if the governor held it strongly that he has been maligned or defamed; he should approach a court of competent jurisdiction to seek redress rather than resorting to abuse of power and brute force using the police.
“It is obvious that a lot of issues are seeking attention in Katsina State; first among them is the high insecurity. We think the governor will do well by directing the instrument of the state towards arresting the ugly menace which continues to threaten the peace of the state than intimidating a journalist who is duty-bound to hold the government accountable to the people.
“Moreover, the council is not unaware of serious security challenges facing the North West States as a whole which Katsina is part of and urges the governor to direct his energy and channel valuable time in confronting these issues including the growing protests against insecurity, brutality and impunity in the North rather than arresting and detaining a journalist unjustly,” the NUJ said.
While calling on the governor to immediately and unconditionally release Omonu, the NUJ also said and as a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Governor Masari should run a law-based government rather than resort to harassment and intimidation of a journalist.
“Make no mistake about it, NUJ will resist any and all attempts to stifle press freedom and gag journalists in the performance of their constitutional guaranteed role of holding government and its officials accountable to the people.
“The union will continue to forensically x-ray the activities of government officials and in particular, those who believe they can use their positions to intimidate, harass, arrest and detain journalists for reporting on them,” the NUJ also said.