Soyombo: Is Being An Investigative Journalist Now A Crime? By Gbenga Odunsi

Soyombo: Is Being An Investigative Journalist Now A Crime? By Gbenga Odunsi
Investigative Journalist, Fisayo Soyombo

Fisayo Soyombo, an investigative journalist is currently on the run after he was reportedly threatened over a chain of reports he did revealing the canker in the police and the Nigerian Correctional service.

Chief Fisayo — as I fondly call him — had gone undercover to expose how police officers from the Pedro Police Station milk money from suspects and their families, including framing those in custody for crimes they did not commit.

Soyombo spent eight days in Ikoyi prison to reveal how drug abuse, sodomy, bribery and pimping had become the order of the day in the prison.

After the second part of the three-series report, Soyombo went underground after it was alleged that the prisons service planned to arrest and prosecute him for spying into its service. I had sent him a WhatsApp message on Tuesday, after reading a report from The Guardian about his planned arrest. He, however, avowed he had not read the report, but, according to him, “it is true”.

It is against this background that I posit that the Prison authorities should be the one under fire after this avowal and not the one who exposed the rot.

It is a despairing moment for journalism in Nigeria. Which nation can prosper by muffling and stifling its journalists?

What use is this revolution we strive for, when we seek to harass an innocent journalist for the crime of revealing the truth?

The Nigerian government cannot claim to fight corruption, yet turn around to witch-hunt a journalist who went undercover — at risk to his own life — to uncover the biggest corruption racket in a government agency. This shows that corruption fight in Nigeria is nothing but a hoax.

It is humdrum that Nigeria has always decided to silence people who speak up against its obduracy. The country criticize journalists for abandoning proper journalism for cocktail journalism and wire-wire journalism, and brown envelop journalism, yet it turns around to gag them at the smallest whiff of proper journalism.

So what and where is the democracy Nigeria keeps preaching about.? There is no freedom for journalists after speech, even the freedom of speech is not guaranteed. Nigerians cannot continue to pretend we are operating a democratic setting when freedom of speech and press cannot be guaranteed.

I recall in 2017 when I went undercover to expose bribery and corruption in National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, few days after the publication, I received shaky threats from unknown persons, via text messages, apparently NAFDAC personnel who felt threatened by the report. This made me flee Abuja for weeks. It is standard: when an investigative journalist goes undercover, he ends up being threatened for doing his job.

Why should investigative journalists become targets of imprisonment for merely exposing the rot within a system? Every country that has thrived and gone on to be, create a better future for her citizenry did so through a free press.

The plan to arrest Fisayo, another attempt to attack press freedom, is dead on arrival. Journalists will not allow the Nigerian government to cage and suppress investigative journalism aimed at exposing corrupt government officials.

If the authorities arrest Fisayo, then they should be ready to arrest all journalists in Nigeria. Press freedom is paramount in every democratic nation. This goes with the saying: nothing must happen to my friend, Chief Fisayo. He must not be harassed, penalized, or arrested for his investigative work into Nigeria’s prison system.

He is a shining light to many young journalists; he has helped the Minister of the Federal Ministry of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola on his agenda for Prison Reforms; he has encouraged a number of journalists to do the impossible; his feats inspired my first undercover work, “Bribery, corruption, discrimination, ‘presidency slot’ in the 2016/2017 federal civil service recruitment”, among several others.

Nigerian government agencies should be grateful that journalists are helping them with information on areas they need to work on, they should not see feedback as plot to undermine them, they should rather collaborate and act rightly. We are all hoping for a better Nigeria.

Journalism is not a crime.

Odunsi, Investigative Journalist and Editor at Information Nigeria, can be reached on [email protected]