At Dele Giwa’s 30th year memorial, stakeholders lament journalists’ insecurity
• Demand posthumous national honour
The escalating incidence of brutality, persecution and gruesome murder of journalists has again come into public scrutiny, as a matter of serious concern. Stakeholders have raised fresh alarm on the continuous onslaught against journalists in the course of performing their duty.
Stakeholders in the media industry were not only sad, but also depressed that many journalists have been unjustly persecuted, assaulted and assassinated in recent times without their their killers being brought to book. The case of the assassination of Dele Giwa, a renowned journalist, who was brutally murdered 30 years ago is still fresh in mind.
As family, friends, colleagues and speakers, who gathered at the Multipurpose Hall of Radio/Eko FM, Ikeja, Lagos, last Wednesday, reminisced on the manner in which life was sniffed out of the man, the memory brought pain, anger and sorrow that his killers are still at large till date.
The colloquium, organised by the Lagos State Chapter of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), in collaboration with Dele Giwa Foundation, it had theme: ‘Safety of Journalists and the Culture of Impunity in Africa.’ It was graced by the wife of the deceased, Funmilayo, his daughter, Aishat, Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, The Sun newspapers, Mr. Eric Osagie, social critic and rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana, who was represented by President, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, who delivered the lecture and Hon. Mr. Sani Zorro, who chaired the occasion. Others were Executive Secretary of the foundation, Mr. Richard Akinnola, Lagos NUJ Chairman, Mr. Deji Elumoye, representative of Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, and journalists among others. The forum renewed calls for the re-opening of Dele Giwa’s murder case and death of other journalists, which are still mysteries and yet to be unraveled.
Chairman of the event, Zorro, who lamented that the country’s political establishment has underrated the role of journalists, noted that journalists have been ignored and inappropriately compensated.
He suggested that a national posthumous honour should be awarded the deceased journalist and the late business mogul, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. He also noted that such gesture would go a long way to make them national heroes.
Zorro called for immediate declassification of investigation done so far on the deceased’s assassination to unravel those behind his death, saying such has become necessary since the country has reached a brick wall in the search of the perpetrators.
A colleague of the deceased at Newswatch magazine, Mr. Ray Ekpu, noted that the perpetrators thought the assassination would quickly be forgotten and said based on Justice Oputa’s panel and the recent pronouncement of President Muhammadu Buhari, the investigation should be re-opened.
According to him, “The perpetrators thought that the job would quickly be forgotten. Though it was quickly done, but it cannot be quickly forgotten. Not many people died the way Dele Giwa died and not many that died are remembered like him.”
Ekpu, who described everybody present at the event as ‘collective widows’, said after the assassination took place, many journalists have since been killed mysteriously without trace of their killers. He added that it is the responsibility of everybody to ensure that Dele Giwa’s killers are brought to justice.
Chairman of the foundation, Akinnola, went down memory lane on how the foundation was conceived. He said said as the Federal Government has announced that the murder of Chief Bola Ige must be re-visited, Dele Giwa’s death also must start afresh.
NUJ Lagos chapter chairman, Elumoye, who regretted that 30 years after, no arrest has been made in connection with the murder, said his colleagues have been the most open to threat across the continent.
IN his lecture, Falana, who disclosed that the continent has continued to witness the cold murder of journalists, accused the police of closing the chapter of investigation into the gruesome murder. He noted that insecurity has been a major concern to stakeholders in the media industry.
While noting that several efforts were made to get Giwa’s killer, he stated General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s junta refused to allow investigation of the killing during the period, lamenting that the police also closed their investigation. He added that all efforts made by late Gani Fawehinmi on the issue were compromised.
Falana disclosed that since Buhari has ordered the re-opening of pending murder cases across the country, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) should collaborate with the police to unravel those who prematurely terminated Giwa’s life.
The legal practitioner noted that apart from the rising incidence of journalists’ arrests, government has also accused them of aiding terrorism, saying all journalists and media organisations should rise up to defend human rights in Nigeria, including the oppression of the Shiites group.
According to him, “Journalists who were kidnapped sometime ago were released after ransom was paid. But despite the release, the kidnappers were not prosecuted. Due to the present recession, salaries are no longer paid journalists as and when due. All these and many more have exposed journalists to serious threats.”
On his part, state police boss, Owoseni, said on daily basis, an average of five journalists are either attacked or molested, making the profession one of the most vulnerable ones to threats.
He assured that the police was committed to ensuring protection of lives and properties, noting that the fact that he came to the colloquium was a pointer that he is involved in ensuring that one day justice would take its course on the killers.
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