ON Thursday, March 30, a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (The ICIR), Sinafi Omanga, was a victim of a mob attack, causing him bodily harm and broken spectacles.
The horror, according to the victim, lasted for about two hours.
The attack was led by a man and a woman who identified themselves as soldiers in the Nigerian Army. The man was in uniform.
It occurred at Mombasa Street, Wuse Zone 5, in the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) District of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
Narrating his ordeal, Omanga, a co-host of The ICIR’s Eye On The Street, a weekly vox-pop programme, said two men who dressed as military personnel were part of the mob that attacked him.
The journalist had noticed a case of jungle justice against two men accused of stealing a mobile phone, and had picked up his device to record the incident when they pounced on him.
“One of those who identified themselves as soldiers wore an Army uniform though I couldn’t get his name.
“They tortured me mercilessly, which caused parts of my head to swell up after threatening severally to kill me,” he said, adding that a member of the mob, the tallest and most brutal of them that others called Dogo, was bent on hitting him with a big rod that could have ended his life.
“He told me I was lucky there was no broken bottle nearby,” he said.
Omanga, who sounded disturbed even when narrating his account, said he was carrying out his constitutional duty as a journalist when the incident occurred.
Beyond the physical assaults, he disclosed he was forced to pay the sum of N4,000 into a third party’s account.
He contacted a colleague, Sadiq Aliyu, who paid on his behalf via the O’pay mobile money platform.
The name on the recipient’s account, based on the generated payment receipt, is Emmanuel Lkechukwu Duru.
“They stole my wristwatch, N5,000 cash in my bag, tore my shirt and destroyed my medicated eyeglasses.
“Upon destroying my eyeglasses, my eyes became the primary target for their punches.
“They also forced me to pay a sum of N4,000 to an Opay account: 79326376, bearing the name Emmanuel Duru before releasing my phone back to me,” Omanga added.
The receipt from the transaction.
They further deleted important files from his phone, including footage and pictures of the jungle justice.
Opay accounts are usually created through customers’ mobile phone numbers. Thus, The ICIR repeatedly contacted the account user, but the phone line was unreachable. Another attempt was made on Saturday, April 1, but the phone was reportedly switched off.
This is not the first time journalists have been attacked while discharging their duties.
For instance, in the last general elections, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) disclosed that at least 14 journalists were attacked or detained during the election coverage.
The ICIR’s Executive Director, Dayo Aiyetan, was among the assaulted journalists.
“Nigerian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release journalist Haruna Mohammed Salisu, and bring to account all those responsible for intimidating and attacking, at least, 13 other journalists and media workers.
“Press freedom is an integral component of Nigerian democracy, and the media should be able to cover national polls without fear of reprisals,” CPJ’s Africa programme director, Angela Quintal stated, reacting to the trend.
In 2022, 67 journalists were killed globally. This is according to the CPJ.
Omanga’s incident has since been reported to the police authority in the Wuse district of the FCT.