THE Beninese police have detained the Editor of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) Damilola Ayeni, at the Commisseria Central, Parakou Police Station, in Parakou, Republic of Benin.
According to FIJ report, Ayeni was in the Republic of Benin for the second part of a Nigeria-Benin environmental journalism report when the authorities in Nigeria’s neighbouring western country apprehended.
FIJ also stated that it received a distress text from Ayeni on Thursday, August 31, which was swiftly deleted a few moments after it was delivered through one of its communication channels. The message read, “I have been apprehended.”
Meanwhile, Ayeni subsequently told his colleagues on a phone call that he was briefly held because the authorities stated that there were security concerns in the area.
The online media outlet, however, said it learnt that the Beninese police frequently employ the strategy of releasing and then re-arresting individuals as a means to keep them detained at the station without notifying their friends and family.
“FIJ subsequently lost touch with him until the early hours of Tuesday morning when a man who identified himself as the ‘Commissioner of the Central Police Station of Parakou in Benin’ said that Ayeni was being held at Commisseria Central, Parakou Police Station,” the report stated.
Claiming to be the Commissioner of Parakou Central Police Station,’ a man named ‘Agnisso Lounko’ wrote to FIJ via WhatsApp.
The message read: “Hello sir, I am the Commissioner of the Central Police Station of Parakou in Benin. Do you know Mr. Damilola of Nigerian nationality?
“He is arrested in Penjari [sic] Park in northern Benin for jihadist [sic]. He would [sic] be presented to the prosecutor and sent to prison. He risks 10 to 20 years in prison. What do you think of his situation, sir?”
In a follow-up report by the FIJ, Police in Benin Republic, are now demanding a bribe of 800,000 CFA to free Damilola Ayeni.
“We are all human beings, and I also have relatives in Nigeria. Send 800,000 CFA to my number allowing me to see my colleagues again and the released [sic],”
“We are in the fight against the jihadists,” Lounko reiterated, insisting on the 800,000 CFA compensation.
Several Nigerians and journalists have, however, shown their displeasure over the incident, calling for his immediate release.
The Founder and Editor-in-Cheif of FIJ, Fisayo Soyombo, while commenting on Ayeni’s continuous detention, stated that the Police in Benin Republic “labelled him a ’jihadist’ despite finding no weapon or ammunition on him.”
“He is a journalist — not a jihadist.” he concluded.