Jimoh Moshood, Police Public Relations Officer, has said no journalist has a right to access and publish classified documents, notwithstanding the Freedom of Information Act.
He said this on Thursday during a protest organised by Concerned Nigerians, a civil society organisation, to demand for the release of Samuel Ogundipe, a Premium Times journalist arrested and detained on Tuesday.
“What we are saying is that even the Freedom of Information Act is limited when it comes to documents that are classified,” he said. “And if you have access to such a document, it is wrong; and that is the case we are investigating. The case the police department is investigating with respect to Samuel Ogundipe is that of theft and unjustified access to documents that are restricted and classified.”
“This document does not fall under what the Freedom of Information Act permits a journalist to have,” Moshood added.
He said no one is pressurising Ogundipe into revealing the source of his story, and that detention is not the same as punishment. In reaction to this, presidential aspirant Omoyele Sowore, who also participated in the protest, argued that illegal detention is pressure on its own.
“And to insist that a journalist has no right to be in possession of a document from which he can quote is wrong,” Sowore said. “Where do journalists get their stories from? They get them from unusual places, and the law is very clear as to the right of a journalist not to disclose his source.”
The Police PRO also said Ibrahim Idris, the Inspector General of Police, did not order for the arrest of Ogundipe, despite conflicting reports.
“The I.G. did not order for the arrest of Samuel Ogundipe,” he said.
“As a police officer, you do not need the I.G.’s order to carry out your duty. People should disabuse their mind that the IGP ordered for his arrest. Any police officer at any level has the right to arrest where there is an accusation, and to go on with the process of investigation and prosecution. You do not need an I.G. order to do that.”
While admitting that every Nigerian who is arrested is entitled to be represented by a lawyer, Moshood said he is unaware Ogundipe was not given access to legal representation.
“But I wasn’t there,” he replied after he was told the judge at the Magistrate Court offered her phone for Ogundipe’s lawyer to be contacted after he did not show up at the hearing.
“I am briefing the IGP immediately that Mr Deji Adeyanju and other notable Nigerians were here,” he said. “And I will convey your message to him. But as we speak, the investigation is ongoing. I want to say that everything you have said is important, and we are going to address them.”
The ICIR placed numerous calls to the Police PRO on Wednesday, a day to the protest, to inquire about the condition of the detained journalist, but none of the calls was answered. He also did not respond to SMS.