Civil society group, Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has said today that it has no confidence in the proposed investigation by the Department of State Services (DSS) into the reported assault on Vanguard newspaper photojournalist, Oluwagbemiga Olamikan, by officials of the agency, describing it as an exercise in futility which can have no credibility. It called for a serious, independent and impartial investigation into this and other attacks against journalists.
In a statement issued in Lagos rejecting the proposed DSS investigation, MRA’s Legal Officer, Ms Obioma Adesewa Okonkwo, said: “The idea that the DSS plans to investigate itself in order to bring about a resolution of this matter is offensive to any concept of justice or fairness and runs counter to the well-established legal principle of fairness that you cannot be a judge in your own cause.”
According to her, “if anyone has any doubt about the inherent lack of credibility of such a process, the person needs to look no further than the statement made by Dr. Peter Afunanya, the Public Relations Officer of the DSS, on August 3 in announcing the plan by the security agency to conduct an investigation and even before any investigation has started, that the DSS is a responsible security organisation with good working relationship with the media and so could not have assaulted journalists.”
Ms Okonkwo argued that having already reached a conclusion absolving the agency of any blame even before any investigation, it is difficult for any fair-minded person to believe that the DSS can have an open mind to conduct a fair and impartial investigation that is likely to result in its own indictment or establish the culpability of its personnel.
She described the proposed investigation as an exercise in futility that is merely designed to whitewash the incident which has serious implications for Nigeria’s international treaty obligations to ensure the safety of journalists as well as to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of attacks against journalists.
Ms Okonkwo called on the Federal Government to live up to its obligations freely entered into by Nigeria at the levels of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU) and the United Nations by launching an independent and impartial investigation into the reported assault on Mr. Olamikan as well as other attacks against journalists and other media practitioners, and ensuring that the perpetrators in all the cases are prosecuted and punished.
She said it is only by so doing that the Government can begin to address the culture of impunity that has festered in the country, especially in cases of crimes against journalists and other media practitioners, for which no single person has ever been prosecuted in Nigeria.