Human rights and press freedom organizations have asked Nigerian authorities to conduct a credible and transparent investigation into the death of journalist Alex Ogbu. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Wednesday called on the Nigerian government to publicize the results of Ogbu’s autopsy, and hold those responsible for his death to account.
“Nigerian authorities should prioritize the transparency of their investigation into the death of journalist Alex Ogbu, determine exactly how he was killed, and share that information with the public,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, adding that, “Nigerians are too often denied the full truth about how journalists die in their country.”
On January 21, Ogbu, a reporter and editor of The Regent Africa Times, an independent newspaper in Nigeria died from head injuries sustained at a protest in Abuja, the capital organized by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria. Francisca Ogbu, the wife of the deceased journalist told journalists and press freedom groups that police lied about the circumstances of her husband’s death. Nigerian police initially told Francisca Ogbu that her husband died after he slipped and hit his head on a rock.
Francisca told CPJ she had seen her husband earlier that day and believed he was on his way to the paper’s office when he died. She alleged that police took possession of the journalist’s phone after he was killed, and refused to return it to her.
A report published by the privately owned news website Sahara Reporters, however, states that police had shot and killed Ogbu while he was covering the protest. The author of that report, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, told CPJ that they arrived at the protest just after Ogbu’s death and spoke with witnesses who said that police opened fire at protesters and a bullet hit Ogbu in the head. The Sahara Reporters journalist told CPJ that the witnesses they interviewed said that Ogbu died at the scene. A statement from The Regent Africa Times confirms that Ogbu was directed by the newspaper’s management to cover the protest. A member of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Abdullahi Musa is quoted by CPJ to have said that Ogbu was not a member of their movement, and was known as a journalist who covered their protests.
Chair of the Abuja branch of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Emanuel Ogbeche says an autopsy had been conducted but the results had not been made public. Yesterday, police told Femi Falana, a lawyer representing Ogbu’s estate that the autopsy can be released if the law firm submits a formal request for the autopsy report. It is still unclear whether Falana’s team submitted the said request.
When contacted by CPJ, Anjuguri Manzah, a spokesperson for the Nigerian police declined to comment on how Ogbu died and whether police opened fire at the protest, but said police were still investigating the circumstances of the journalist’s death.