The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on the Federal Government to probe the attack on Benedict Uwalaka, a journalist with Daily Trust.
Daily Trust had reported how Uwalaka was attacked by a police officer while covering aviation union protest on Monday.
Reacting on Tuesday, Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, asked the Nigerian authorities to swiftly and transparently investigate the assault.
“Police in Nigeria too often arrest and harass journalists for their work. Authorities should ensure recourse and restitution for those who face such abuses.”
Uwalaka told CPJ that he was covering a protest by aviation workers at the airport when an officer sitting in a police vehicle with two other officers summoned him and criticized the journalist for taking a woman’s photo without her permission.
“He asked me to delete the picture. I said no,” Uwalaka told CPJ, saying the officer then grabbed his camera and punched him in the hand about 10 times.
The officer took Uwalaka to the airport’s police station and left, saying he would return. When he did not come back after about 40 minutes, officers at the station told Uwalaka that he was free to leave.
Uwalaka said he then waited at the station for more than two hours hoping to speak to a supervisor, but left when they did not arrive. Officers at the airport station told Uwalaka that they did not know the officer who had brought him in.
“The police said that unless the person who brought me is available, there is nothing they can do about it,” Uwalaka said. “They do not know him and there is no way they can trace him.”
Lagos police spokesperson Benjamin Hundeyin told CPJ via messaging app that questions should be directed to the airport’s police command.
When CPJ called that office’s spokesperson, Olayinka Ojelade, he said he was not available to comment and would provide contact details for another spokesperson; he had not done so by the time of publication.
Previously, in 2012, hospital workers in Lagos beat Uwalaka with their fists and hit him with bottles and sticks while he covered the aftermath of a plane crash, as CPJ documented at the time.
Uwalaka took his attackers to court, but the case was dismissed in September 2019.