Nigerian journalist arrested in Benin Republic

A Nigerian journalist Damilola Ayeni who was on a trip to the Republic of Benin for the second leg of a Nigeria-Benin environmental journalism report has been arrested by the authorities that labeled him a jihadist.

Penpushing reports that Ayeni an editor at the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), as at the time of filing this report is being detained at the Commissariat Central, Parakou Police Station, in Parakou, Republic of Benin,

The Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) was quoted saying that Ayeni on Thursday August 31,2023 sent a distress text message that he had been arrested by the Beninese police, adding that nothing follows the text thereafter.

‘On Thursday, August 31, FIJ had received a distress text from Ayeni but it was deleted within seconds of delivery on one of its communication channels. The text read: I have just been arrested’, the foundation wrote.

Penpushing further reports that the foundation added that the arrested journalist subsequently told his colleagues on a phone call that he was briefly held because the authorities stated that there were security concerns in the area.

The Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) said it was not until much later it learnt that the release-and-rearrest tactic is often used by Beninese police to keep their captives in the station without alerting their friends and relatives.

Penpushing also reports that the foundation  reported that the police is demanding a bribe of 800,000 CFA to free  Ayeni, adding that  a man, who identified himself as the ‘Commissioner of the Central Police Station of Parakou in Benin’, subsequently reached out announcing that  Ayeni was being held at Commissariat Central, Parakou Police Station.

The said Commissioner writing via WhatsApp with the number +22946066050, under the profile name ‘Agnisso Lounko’,  was asking if anybody know Ayeni, a Nigerian, adding that he was arrested in Penjari Park in northern Benin for jihadist

‘Hello sir, I am the Commissioner of the Central Police Station of Parakou in Benin. Do you know Mr. Damilola of Nigerian nationality? He is arrested in Penjari [sic] Park in northern Benin for jihadist [sic]. He would [sic] be presented to the prosecutor and sent to prison. He risks 10 to 20 years in prison. What do you think of his situation, sir?”, the said commissioner wrote

Penpushing reports that, when Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) insisted and sent evidence that Ayeni being held is a journalist and not a jihadist, the ‘commissioner of police’ in the neighbouring country demanded to know location of the foundation.

The Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) asked for options from which a decision could be made, the said police boss, asked the foundation to send a lawyer for evidence, and equally directed the Judicial Police Officer to listen to Ayeni before being presented to the prosecutor in Port-Novo

“I ask you to send a lawyer for his defense. I will ask the OPJ (Judicial Police Officer) to listen to him again before presenting him to the CRIET Prosecutor in Porto-Novo. Thank you”, the said commissioner said

Penpushing further reports that Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) asked if a gun, sword, knife, grenade, bomb or any other arm or ammunition were found on the arrested journalist, but the commissioner declared that if the foundation want his release, should send a lawyer.

‘Do you want his release? If so, reconsider your reaction or send a lawyer to defend him. We are all human beings, and I also have relatives in Nigeria. Send 800,000 CFA to my number allowing me to see my colleagues again and the released [sic]. We are in the fight against the jihadists’, he emphasised

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