Regardless of the beats they cover, journalists are perennial news chasers. It is waat they breathe and live for. Sometimes, though, they themselves end up becoming the news.
Today, May 3 — the date designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the World Press Freedom Day, to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression — we remember seven Nigerian journalists who died in the course of duty.
One of the highest-profile in the litany of unresolved assassination cases in Nigeria, Dele Giwa, pioneer Editor of Newswatch Magazine, was killed by a letter bomb at his Lagos home on October 19, 1986. He and three other journalists — Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese and Yakubu Mohammed — founded had Newswatch two year earlier.
Giwa played a key role in the struggle against the tyrannical rule of the Ibrahim Babaginda military regime, as the magazine not only exposed misdeeds of the government but also inspired other news outlet to follow suit. The magazine was known for its hard-hitting views and criticism of the Babangida regime.
Born Sumonu Oladele ‘Baines’ Giwa on March 16, 1947 in Ile-Ife, Osun State, he studied in the United States, where he worked with the New York Times as a News Assistant for four years before relocating to Nigeria to work with Daily Times. In 1984, he and his team started Newswatch with the mandate to “change the format of print journalism in Nigeria [and] introduced bold, investigative formats to news reporting in Nigeria”.
Enenche Akogwu was a journalist and cameraman for Channels Television in the north, with special interest in human rights, politics and war. He graduated from Benue State University in 2004, but he didn’t start working for Channels Television until 2010.
On January 20, 2012, Akogwu was at the scene of multiple bomb blasts by Boko Haram for follow-up reports when he was shot and killed by an unidentified gunman. He died from six gun shots; he was shot three times in the chest and three more in the stomach. Eneche’s death gave spotlight to the degree of killings and human rights crimes committed by the insurgents.
Actually, Akogwu was the second journalist to be killed after Boko Haram announced its intention to launch attacks on journalists who were misrepresenting its goals and principles. The first was Zakari Isa, a journalist with the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA).
Isa, a reporter and cameraman for Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) in the north-eastern state of Borno, was killed by Boko Haram in Maiduguri on October 22, 2011.
Boko Haram admitted to killing Isa, saying it was because he was “spying on them for the Nigerian authorities and his death should serve as a lesson for other journalists doing the same”.
You read BBC’s recent investigation ‘Sweet Sweet Codeine’? The journalist who did that story is the daughter of Godwin Agbroko, Chairman of the ThisDay Newspaper Editorial Board Chairman who was shot dead on his way home from work around 10pm on December 21, 2006, precisely at Daleko flyover, Iyana-Isolo — the bridge linking Isolo to Mushin.
Agbroko’s death was passed off as armed robbery, but that is doubtful given he was found in a pool of his own blood with his car and other valuables all untouched.
Ogunbayo Ayanlola Ohu worked as Assistant News Editor for The Guardian before he was killed on September 20, 2009. A graduate of the Ibadan Polytechnic, he had worked for The Guardian newspaper as a state correspondent in Kastina before he was promoted to the post he occupied till death, with a responsibility to cover the Nigerian politics.
Ohu was shot and killed at his home in Lagos on September 20, 2009 by suspected armed robbers. The suspects, numbering about five, fired bullets at him in two spells, washed off their blood-stained hands at a tap in the compound and made away with only his laptop and cell phone.
The Police initially reported his murder as part of a robbery, but it was sheer waste of time. Ohu was working on a Certificate Forgery story of Abdullahi Dikko, then Comptroller-General of Customs.
Mr. Edo Sule Ugbagwu was the Lagos judicial reporter for The Nation newspaper. He was a Mass Communication and English graduate of the Ado Bayero University, Kano, and he worked at The Comet newspapers. He was shot at close range at about 6.45pm on April 24, 2010, in the presence of his younger brother. Although he was rushed to a hospital, a doctor said he was dead before arrival. Neighbours said the sound of the gunshot shook the one-storeyed building he lived in.
Edo was said to be hard-working, dedicated, caring, and dependable by his friends and family.
Mr. Ikechukwu Onubogu, was a journalist and cameraman with the Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS), who was reported missing for several days before he was found dead with bullet wounds on November 15, 2017. His death still remains unsolved, as the police have not prosecuted anyone in that regard. It was reported that he left his home with his camera after receiving a phone call from an unknown person.
On this day, the sacrifices of these men to the pen profession will not be forgotten.