Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today called on the Federal Government to launch a transparent and independent investigation into the death of Mr. Pelumi Onifade, a reporter with Gboah TV, an online television channel, who was reportedly arrested by officers attached to the Lagos State Task Force while covering the #EndSARS protests, and later found dead at a mortuary in Ikorodu Lagos, where his body was deposited.
The 20-year old Mr. Onifade was covering the scene of a mob raid on a government facility in the Oko Oba area of Agege Local Government Area for Gboah TV, where he was serving as an intern, when operatives of the task force stormed the scene and engaged hoodlums who attempted to loot palliatives at the Ministry of Agriculture store in the Abattoir area of the state.
Despite wearing a jacket identifying him as a journalist, he was reportedly arrested and dragged away by men of the task force on October 24, 2020. A statement by Gboah TV said the family and the station searched for him for days before they discovered his corpse at the mortuary in Ikorodu.
The late Mr. Onifade was a second year student of the department of history at the Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijagun, Ogun State, was an intern with Gboah TV.
MRA’s Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, said in a statement in Lagos that “Mr. Onifade’s death is one too many and is particularly ironic as he was arrested while covering protests that had engulfed the country as a result of police brutality and extra-judicial killings. This latest incident must not go uninvestigated. The Federal Government must make every effort to establish the circumstances of his death, identify his killers and make them to face the wrath of the law.”
Reminding the Federal Government that earlier his week, on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists on November 2, MRA had called for the establishment of mechanisms to combat impunity for attacks and violence against media workers in order to ensure accountability for such acts and discourage future attacks, Mr. Longe said “the killing of Mr. Onifade has given additional urgency to such a call. In this day and age, no attack against any journalist, and certainly not the killing of a journalist, should go unpunished as such cases of impunity only breed more impunity.”
He reiterated MRA’s earlier call on the Government to fulfill its international obligations by launching a serious and transparent investigation into all unresolved cases of murders of journalists since the 1986 assassination of the former Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch magazine, Mr. Dele Giwa, and several other journalists whose deaths have not been resolved, including the instant case of Mr. Onifade.
Mr. Longe said MRA was standing with the Onifade family in demanding, among other things, that the police officer or officers who killed Mr. Onifade must be identified and prosecuted and that pending a full investigation, the officer who led the squad that arrested the young journalist should be held responsible and if he is unable to provide a convincing account of what happened after they left the scene of the arrest and show that Mr. Onifade left his custody alive, should be prosecuted for the killing.
He also called for substantial compensation to the Onifade family for the wrongful killing of their son and a public apology to the family by both the Lagos State Government and Lagos State Police Command.