On Friday, January 19, 2018, a detachment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police from Abuja, at the prompting of embattled Senator Ikechukwu Obiora, swooped on the headquarters of Daily Times of Nigeria (DTN) on Lateef Jakande Road, Agidingbi, Ikeja, Lagos.
The heavily armed men numbering about 10 with AK-47 riffles, arrived in a Coaster bus at about 9.30 am, broke into the office complex of the newspaper house where they met some journalists who were preparing to go home to freshen up for the day’s work after sleeping over the previous day due to production of the newspaper.
In a gestapo action, the intruders took the journalists and some administrative staff by the jugular, bundled them into the waiting bus at gun-point and proceeded to cart away the company’s computers, other systems from the newsroom and documents from the admin office.
It is not yet clear the motive of the Police in invading the office of this heritage newspaper or the reason for arresting the innocent staff who are oblivious of any disputes involving the owners of the newspaper.
Also from all indications, the Police, it was gathered, did not invade the company on any order of court or exhibited any warrant of arrest to barge into the premises to commit this condemnable act of illegality.
As at the time of this publication, five members of staff arrested on Friday, January 19, 2018 in Lagos have been moved to Area 10 Police Station, Abuja through the roads and are being detained there.
Earlier last week, the management of Folio Media Group (FMG), publishers of The Daily Times, had raised an alarm over what it termed contrived arraignment and remand of the publisher of The Daily Times newspaper, Mr. Fidelis Anosike and the Group Managing Director, Mr. Noel Anosike, on Tuesday, through the connivance of Senator Obiora and the Nigeria Police at the Magistrates’ Court, Mpape, a suburb of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The Folio Media Group in a statement last Wednesday said in carrying out the arraignment before the court, Obiora and his co-travellers, approached a court that lacks the jurisdiction over a matter that is currently pending before the Court of Appeal.
“The attempt is to stop the heritage publication from further publication and kill the tabloid. The issue at stake is already being addressed by the court of competent jurisdiction and not a magistrates’ court that lacks the power to entertain such suit.
“We also wish to inform the general public that no amount of connivance and court processes manipulation will deter the management from production in a desperate attempt to rubbish and discredit the owners of the newspaper.
“The Daily Times is alive and it has come to stay after its reinventing, repackaging and being consistently visible on the newsstand,” the statement added.
Furthermore, the FMG said: “We therefore wish to state that Folio Group is capable of defending the DTN and will resist any attempt by anybody to thwart the noble objective of ensuring that the DTN is alive and regular on newsstands. That is our goal and we intend to defend the objective.”
For the avoidance of doubt, this is what Wikipedia says about Daily Times acquisition in 2004: “The Daily Times Nigeria is a newspaper with headquarters in Lagos. At its peak, in the 1970s, it was one of the most successful locally owned businesses in Africa. The paper went into decline after it was purchased by the Federal Government in 1975. What was left, was sold to a private investor in 2004. Folio Communications Limited officially assumed the ownership of the Daily Times of Nigeria Plc on September 3, 2004 after a colourful handover ceremony that was televised. The company was not and still not a consortium. It is a Private Limited-Liability Company.
“The printing of the flagship title “The Daily Times” resumed after the assumption of ownership in earnest from 2006 till the year 2009 partially to satisfy the embedded requirements contingent upon the Enterprise Sale Deed while company turnaround and restructuring continued.
“Although the flagship “Daily Times” has returned to the streets since December 2014, further efforts have been injected towards the return of the rest viable titles, especially the Sunday Times, the Weekend Times and the Lagos Weekend to the streets.”
The Daily Times as publishing company is not in any court with anybody. One now wonders under what authority is the Police acting upon to stop the newspaper from publishing.
We thought under this democracy, the freedom of the press is sacrosanct provided the media work within the relevant laws permitting their operations.
We therefore call on the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, to call his officers to order and take urgent steps to get the journalists and other members staff of the newspaper out of detention and the undue interference of the running of the company. Enough is enough of this clampdown on the media at the slightest prompting of a former Senator Obiora.