The International Press Centre, IPC, Lagos-Nigeria has raised concern about the alleged unprovoked physical assault on identified BBC Journalists; Chioma Obianinwa and Nnamdi Agbanelo in south-eastern Enugu State, last week by a Catholic Priest, Father Ejike Mbaka, and some members of his ministry.
Media reports including that of BBC News (Pidgin) of December 10, 2020 stated that the BBC crew had scheduled an interview with Father Mbaka, but that while waiting outside of the Father’s premises in their vehicle to be called in for the interview, a group of 20 men surrounded them. They were said to have been issued with death threats for writing “negative reports about Mbaka” while they were reportedly physically and verbally brutalized by the men and Fr. Mbaka.
It was further reported that they narrowly escaped after being chased out of the premises by the men who also closely trailed them till they left the State.
Although spokesperson for Fr. Mbaka’s Adoration Ministry, Mr. Maximus Ugwuoke, said the entire Adoration family was not aware of the presence of the BBC team on the Adoration ground with the mission to interview Mbaka, IPC Executive Director Mr. Lanre Arogundade in a statement, stated that the allegation is deserving of thorough investigation by the Police.
“Journalists in Nigeria have become highly endangered species and it is important get to the root of this matter so that the alleged perpetrators can be made to face the law and serve as a deterrent to others”, Mr. Arogundade stated.
According to him, it should be noted that assault constitutes a grave offence under the Nigerian Law and is punishable by virtue of the provisions of the criminal code act.
He added that any assault on Journalists who ensure that important information is accessible to citizens is an attack on their human, journalistic and democratic rights and should always be condemned.
IPC therefore enjoins the Enugu State Commissioner of Police to take swift measures to investigate in detail the reported attacks and ensure that justice is administered.