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Nigerians mourn ChannelsTV Precious Owolabi who died during Shiite protest

“PRECIOUS Owolabi left his house yesterday for work but did not return and will never return again. Rest in Peace.’ 

That was one of the several tributes that followed Precious’ death, currently trending on social media.

The 23-year-old Precious was hit by a stray bullet on Monday during a clash between members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) and men of the Nigeria Police in Abuja. Later on Monday evening, ChannelsTV confirmed his death.

Precious who graduated from the University of Ilorin was a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). He was a budding journalist as he was serving with the ChannelsTV group. Precious had joined the media crew to cover the Shiite protest which later resulted in his unfortunate death.

“The management and staff of Channels Television are greatly saddened by the untimely and unfortunate death of such a promising journalist,” ChannelsTV said in tributes. “We pray that God will grant his family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss, and avail his soul eternal rest,” it added.

The Nigerian Union of Journalists said Precious Owolabi was a “promising journalist”.  Emmanuel Ogbeche, Abuja Chairman, stressed that yesterday was another sad day for the journalism profession in Nigeria.

Also, the Committee to Protect Journalist has tasked the Nigerian authorities to “investigate and ensure those responsible for his death are held accountable.  “The CPJ is saddened to learn that Channels TV journalist Precious Owolabi has died after being shot earlier today,” it tweeted. 

Meanwhile, many sympathisers advised journalists to always wear protective toolkits when covering conflicts.

Chidi Odinkalu, former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) tweeted that journalism has its hazards, especially in the “frontlines of conflict. He said the proprietors in the media industry should take basic precautions.

“21st-century journalism is not a bed of roses but a battleground. In case you don’t know, many people want you silenced just like it happened to Precious Owolabi. Body armour is no longer an option but a must,” tweeted another user identified as Ayemojubar

Precious’ death has increased the number of journalists who had been killed in Nigeria to ten. An earlier report released by the UNESCO observatory of killed journalists in June revealed that at least nine journalists were killed in the country between 2006 and 2019.

Apart from Precious, Usman Umar who was the deputy commissioner of police in charge of operations at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) lost his life during the protest yesterday. He had already been interred on Monday evening according to the Islamic burial rite.

President Muhammadu Buhari said he deeply commiserated with the families of Precious and Usman Umar, of the FCT Police Command, who died during the violent protest by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) in Abuja.

The spokesperson of the Shiites, Abdullahi Musa, said 17 of their members also died, while many injured. He said most of their member were arrested also.

El-Zakzaky and his wife have remained in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) since December 2015 following a clash between the IMN and the Nigerian Army that year.

He was arraigned after two years of being in detention on charges bordering on culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, and disruption of the public peace.

Since then the Shiite group regularly hold protest for the release of their leader. Recently, the group said the El-Zakzaky health was failing and needed medical treatment. A bail application was filed by his counsel but the Kaduna State High Court denied him the application.

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