Abuja, April 28, 2021 – Nigerian authorities should thoroughly investigate the attack on journalist Frederick Olatunde Odimayo and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On April 16, in Lokoja, the capital of the northwestern state of Kogi, five men attacked Odimayo, a freelance reporter and editor with the privately-owned broadcaster Grace FM, beating him until he lost consciousness, according to news reports and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
Odimayo said he was at a car repair shop at about noon when the group of men approached him and accused him of destroying their drug trafficking business with his reporting. They proceeded to beat him for about 15 minutes, until one of the journalist’s colleagues intervened and stopped the attack, according to that colleague, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
Odimayo said he regained consciousness later that day at a hospital in Lokoja, where he remained in recovery for 24 hours; he told CPJ yesterday that he still experiences headaches from the attack and has sought further treatment in his hometown in Ondo state.
“Authorities in Nigeria must identify those who assaulted journalist Frederick Olatunde Odimayo and ensure they are held to account – including those who planned the attack,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “Journalists’ safety should be a top priority for Nigerian law enforcement, and that includes curbing impunity for violence against reporters.”
On March 31, the privately-owned news website Wadata Media published an audio report, filed by Odimayo as a freelancer, on the drug trade in Lokoja. In that reporting, Odimayo went undercover as a drug buyer to expose a local trafficking group.
Odimayo told CPJ that Grace FM had filed a report to the police immediately following the attack.
William Aya, the Kogi state police spokesperson, told CPJ over the phone on April 19 that police had taken suspects into custody for questioning but said they were not the suspected attackers themselves. Aya declined to comment further and said additional details about the investigation would eventually be made public; today, he told CPJ via messaging app that the investigation was still ongoing.