by Robert Egbe
Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has asked the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice in Abuja to compel the Federal Government to pay N10 million each to the family of 11 journalists killed between 1998 and 2019.
It demanded the sum as compensation following, according to it, the government’s failure to effectively investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of the murders.
The group claimed through its counsel, Mr Darlington Onyekwere that despite the government’s obligations under various domestic, regional and international instruments, it had failed to bring the killers to book.
It claimed further that unless the court intervened, the government would neither adopts measures to protect journalists nor cause any real investigations into the killings.
The journalists named in the suit are Mr Tunde Oladepo, Bureau Chief of The Guardian newspaper’s Ogun State office, shot dead by gunmen at his home in Abeokuta on February 26, 1998, in the presence of his wife and two young children.
Mr Okezie Amauben, publisher of Newsservice Magazine, who was reportedly shot and killed by a police officer in Enugu on September 2, 1998;
Mr Fidelis Ikwuebe, a freelance journalist for The Guardian Newspaper, who was abducted and murdered on April 18, 1999, while covering violent clashes between the Aguleri and Umuleri communities in Anambra State;
Mr Sam Nimfa-Jan, a journalist with Details Magazine in Jos, Plateau State, who was killed in Kafanchan, Kaduna State, on May 27, 1999, while covering riots between Hausa Fulani and Zangon-Kataf groups and his body was found with arrows protruding from his back;
Mr Samson Boyi, a photojournalist with the Adamawa State-owned Newspaper, The Scope, who was killed by armed men on November 5, 1999 while on assignment to cover a visit by the then state governor, Mr Boni Haruna, to the neighbouring Bauchi State.
The others are Mr Bayo Ohu, an Assistant News Editor with The Guardian Newspaper, shot by armed men in his home in Lagos on September 20, 2009.
Mr Nathan Dabak, deputy editor, and Mr Sunday Gyang Bwede, reporter, both with the Light Bearer, a monthly newspaper owned by the Church of Christ in Nigeria, who was attacked and killed by a mob in Jos on April 24, 2010, while on a reporting assignment; Mr Zakariya Isa, a reporter and cameraman with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), killed on October 22, 2011, and for which Boko Haram reportedly claimed responsibility when its spokesman, Abul Qada, was quoted as saying that the militants killed him “because he was spying on them for Nigerian security authorities.”
Mr Enenche Akogwu, a reporter and camera operator with Channels Television, was killed in Kano on January 20, 2012, by gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram members;
Mr Precious Owolabi, a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member serving his primary assignment as a reporter with Channels Television, who was shot and killed in Abuja on July 22, 2019, while covering a protest by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria resulting in a confrontation with the Nigerian Police.
It is seeking, among others, a declaration that the killing of the 11 journalists is a violation of their fundamental rights to life and freedom of expression and the press.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.