Statement By Eculaw & Co. In The Matter Of Tega Sampson Oghenedoro Against The Government Of Niger State.
This law firm has been engaged by Mr. Tega Sampson Oghenedoro, also known as Fejiro Oliver, in his quest to redress the massive abuse of rights he suffered and continues to suffer in the hands of the Government of Niger State under the neo-dictatorship of Dr. Aliyu Babandida, as Governor, and certain officers of the Directorate of State Security (DSS).
As you may know, Mr. Oghenedoro is a Nigerian journalist employed with the Nigerian Television Authority (the NTA) where he remains an employee, notwithstanding some noticeable unlawful interferences with his position at the NTA. As a hobby and personal passion, Mr. Oghenedoro engages in online journalism through the Secrets Reporters Media and the Daily Voice NG with urls of www.secretsreporter.com and www.dailyvoiceng.com respectively.
Upon a detailed evaluation of the facts presented to us, significant portion of which now resides in the public domain, we have come to the conclusion that the officials of the Government of Niger State, in collaboration with the officers of the DSS carried out a well-rehearsed and systemic violation of the rights of Mr. Oghenedoro. This was done in the most egregious and mendacious manner to be seen in Nigeria since the end of military dictatorship with the infamous marshal laws.
As a journalist, Mr. Oghenedoro, came upon a story detailing out an entrenched pattern of corruption within the Government of Niger State, involving the Governor of that State and a number of top officials of the state. In accordance with his journalistic discipline, Mr. Oghenedoro informed the officials of the Government of the type of information he obtained and his intention to carry out standard journalistic investigations on the story. He thus offered them an opportunity to present a rebuttal or their own account, if any.
The officials of Niger State indicated that they disputed the story and had a different account of what happened. They requested for an opportunity to meet with Mr. Oghenedoro to avail him of their side of the story. To that end, they first requested to visit Mr. Oghenedoro in Asaba or, as an alternative, that he meet with them in Minna, Niger State. Mr. Oghenedoro turned down both suggestions, but agreed to meet at a neutral venue and a public place in Abuja.
To facilitate the logistics for the meeting, the Niger State Government provided a flight ticket for Mr. Oghenedoro’s trip from Asaba to Abuja. Unknown to Mr. Oghenedoro, Niger State Government officials were not honest and did wish to act in good faith. They had liaised with some elements of the DSS in Minna, and they had trailed Mr. Oghenedoro’s movement from Asaba to Abuja in a vicious manner crudely reminiscent of the Gestapo.
Immediately Mr. Oghenedoro arrived in Abuja and stepped out of the airport lounge, he made to catch a taxi to the city. But suddenly, some men, later discovered to be officers of the DSS Minna, waylaid him and forced him into a waiting Hilux van with dark tinted windows. They beat him up, handcuffed him and blindfolded him, and ultimately took him from Abuja to Minna, Niger State.
Mr. Oghenedoro was subjected to brutalities and torture in the most inhuman and degrading manner conceivable. He was falsely accused of intimidating the Government of Niger State and he was dragged to a Magistrate Court in Minna in a sham show of shame that was called a criminal process. While this was ongoing, the officials of both the DSS and the Government of Niger State mounted a campaign of calumny in the press in a scattershot effort to tarnish his reputation and injure his character. The DSS unlawfully seized the computer and telephones of Mr. Oghenedoro, invading his privacy and blackmailing him thereupon.
After two weeks in detention, the Niger State Government and the DSS forced Mr. Oghenedoro to sign a secret undertaking titled: “UNDERTAKING NOT TO PUBLISH ANY INCITIING OR DAMAGING INFORMATION AGAINST THE NIGER STATE GOVERNMENT”. The purpose of that was to bind Mr. Oghenedoro not to publish damaging, even if truthful, story about corruption by officials of Niger State Government. Against his protestations, they made it clear to him that he would not be released from detention unless he signed that undertaking. Worse, they made it clear to him that they had the judges in the Niger State judiciary in their pockets and were certain to get him convicted of the sham charges they filed against him. As expected, once Mr. Oghenedoro was forced to sign the said undertaking, all charges were mysteriously withdrawn and he was released from detention, though his computer and telephones were never returned to him.
In consideration of all that happened in this case, we accepted to represent Mr. Oghenedoro as his counsel against both the Niger State Government and the DSS. This was a deliberate and well-organized attempt to suppress the damaging information against Niger State Government, which was about to be published. From all indications, this was also a far-reaching attempt by the State and the elements of the DSS apparently well paid by the State Government officials to send a message to the members of the press, that the State would not allow the truth about corruption in their government to come to light and that they would go to all extent to suppress the truth. The case of Mr. Oghenedoro was Niger State’s way of repressing the new and emerging media and to cast a chill on the citizen’s right in an era of freedom of information.
For the purpose of seeking remedies for the right violations he suffered and for the purpose of resisting what has been a blatant and vicious encroachment on the free press, Mr. Oghenedoro has engaged us as counsel and we are happy to act for him as such. We are presently considering our various options. One thing is clear: based on our client’s instructions, we will not allow a corrupt State Government to assume that all it needed to escape responsibility for massive corruption and looting of state resources would simply be to kidnap, torture and intimidate those in a position to disclose the truth about its shady businesses.
Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire