The Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom condemns the attack and threat to the life of Mr. Lanre Suraju and his family by a group of unknown armed men who stormed his residence, assaulted members of his family and made away with several valuables including sensitive materials.
On Monday 28th March, Mr. Suraju a leading whistleblower and chairman of Human and Environmental Development Agenda, was attacked by a five-man squad of unknown heavily armed assailants who broke into his residence, and assaulted him and his family while carting away 5 phones including: 1 Samsung phone, 2 iPhones, 2 iPads; 2 Macbook pro laptops, a Dell laptop, a Toyota Corolla 2014 car, jewelries, ATM cards, cars keys, Bank Tokens, office documents among other valuables belonging to Mr Lanre and his family.
The incident as disclosed in a statement issued by HEDA, revealed that Mr. Suraju, who had to be hospitalized alongside his wife, was physically abused and threatened to be killed by the attackers who came heavily armed with guns, knives and other dangerous weapons.
The statement as signed by Executive Secretary of HEDA, Mr. Sulaimon Arigbabu, revealed that “The assailants, invaded only Mr. Lanre’s home out of other 220 buildings in the estate, collected all valuable items in the house and coerced Mr Lanre to provide all his security details including phone passwords, bank log-in details, laptops passwords, among others. The assailants then immediately gained access to his email, phone numbers including WhatsApp and other messaging platforms as well as bank platforms”.
Sadly, this is not the first time journalists, media professionals, press freedom advocates and civil rights activists have been targets of oppression by anti-democratic elements.
Recall that The Executive Director of the International Press Centre (IPC) based in Lagos and former President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, was arrested by officials of the Department of State Services.
Though the security outfit claimed that Arogundade’s arrest was a case of “mistaken identity”, the journalist said he has been regularly grilled by DSS officials while travelling.
Arogundade was arrested at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport after arriving from Banjul, where he went to train Gambian journalists on Conflict sensitive journalism.
These among several other attacks targeted at proactive individuals engaged in human rights and media freedom activism is a reflection of the sustained assault on the civic space by elements resistant to being held accountable to the people.
CWPPF sees the work of individuals, media and civil society groups who expose corruption by state institutions and officials, as complementary to the Federal Government’s publicly stated policy of fighting against corruption. In exposing corruption in government, these individuals and groups are acting in the public interest and in the specific case of the media, it is constitutionally mandated to hold the government and public office holders accountable to the people. For this reason, the Federal Government as much as the general public should see the news media and civil society groups as partners and not adversaries, through support and protection to effectively play its that accountability role
While investigation is ongoing, we however condemn this attack on Mr. Lanre Suraju, and wish to reiterate our standpoint against any form of attack on journalists, media and civil rights actors in the strongest possible terms. We call on the security agencies and appropriate state institutions to carry out thorough investigation and ensure the perpetrators of this heinous act are brought to book.
The coalition for whistleblowers and protection of press freedom shall continue to uphold its stance against any form of oppression to suppress human rights and press freedom in Nigeria and across the sub saharan region.
About the Coalition for Whistleblower Protection and Press Freedom, CWPPF The CWPPF is a group of media and civil society organisations committed to upholding democracy and good governance by protecting the ethos of whistleblowing, freedom of expression and press freedom.
OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative
Daily Trust Newspaper
Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism
Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID)
African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)
Civic Media Lab
Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC)
International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR)
International Press Centre (IPC)
Media Rights Agenda (MRA)
Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ)
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP)
HEDA Resources Centre.