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Abuja Court Orders Attorney General To Re-Open Investigation Into Dele Giwa’s Death After Almost 40 Years 

The court also ordered the FG to enforce policies on the protection of journalists.

Nearly 40 years later, a Federal High Court in Abuja, on Friday, ordered the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice to re-open investigation and prosecution of the murder of a renowned journalist, Dele Giwa.

The order is coming after years of efforts by eminent Nigerians including the late Gani, Fawehinmi, SAN, who had sought the fiat of the Attorney General of Lagos State to prosecute the case.

Besides, the court also ordered for the investigations of other journalists killed in the discharge of their lawful duties, with the aim of ensuring perpetrators are punished in line with the provisions of the laws.

The order was made by Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court in Abuja, on Friday, while delivering judgement in a suit filed by the Incorporated Trustees of Media Rights Agenda.

The group had dragged the AGF to court for the enforcement of fundamental rights of media practitioners to safety as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution and African Charters on Human Rights.

In the Motion on Notice marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1301/2021, and filed on behalf of the plaintiff by their lawyer, Mojirayo Ogunlana-Nkanga, the applicant sought a declaration that the killings of various journalists and media practitioners in Nigeria is a violation of their fundamental right to life.

This right, according to the group, is encapsulated in Section 33 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, among other reliefs.

In the affidavit in support of the suit, the group listed some of the journalists murdered in the course of their duty to include Dele Giwa, killed on October 19, 1986; and Bolade Fasisi of National Association of Women Journalists, March 31, 1998; Edward Olalekan of Daily Times, murdered on June 1, 1999; Omololu Falobi of The Punch, murdered on October 5, 2006; Godwin Agbroko of Thisday, on December 22, 1999; Abayomi Ogundeji of Thisday, August 17, 2008; and Edo Sule-Ugbagwu of The Nation, April 24, 2010.

Delivering judgement in the suit, the court held that being the Chief Law Officer of the federation, the AGF is under obligation to prosecute and penalise killers of media practitioners in the country.

Justice Ekwo, who observed that the AGF did not file any process to counter the arguments of the applicant, held that since the group’s arguments were not controverted, such arguments would be deemed to be true.

“It is pertinent to note that the respondent has neither denied that these killings have taken place or that these persons were not journalists or media practitioners.

“The position of the law is that affidavit evidence which is not challenged or controverted however, is deemed admitted and can be relied upon by a court,” the court held.

While stating that the applicant had established its case by credible evidence and ought to be entitled to the reliefs sought, Justice Ekwo subsequently made an order directing the Federal Government of Nigeria to take measures to prevent attacks on journalists and other media practitioners.

“An Order is hereby made directing the Federal Government of Nigeria to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of all attacks against journalists and other media practitioners, and ensure that all victims of attacks against journalists have access to effective remedies.

“An Order is hereby made directing the Federal Government of Nigeria to take measures to raise awareness and build the capacities of various stakeholders, particularly journalists and other media practitioners, policy makers, law enforcement, security, intelligence, military as well as other officials and relevant stakeholders on the laws and standards for ensuring the safety of journalists and media practitioners.

Giwa was killed on Sunday, October 19, 1986, via a lethal mail delivered to him at his residence in Adeniyi Jones Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos State.

Until his death 38 years ago, Giwa was founder and publisher of the famous news magazine, the “Newswatch” .

He worked alongside other eminent journalists like Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese and Yakubu Mohammed.

Alex Enumah

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