Nigerian authorities should investigate the recent attack on the offices of the Thunder Blowers news website, and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
At around 8:15 p.m. on January 3, eight men entered the outlet’s office in Gusau, the capital of Nigeria’s northern Zamfara state, and demanded to see Abdul Balarabe, the website’s Hausa-language editor, who was not present, and attacked Mansur Rabiu, also an editor, according to Rabiu and Thunder Blowers managing editor and team lead, Anas Sani Anka, both of whom spoke with CPJ by phone.
Rabiu said the men beat him with sticks for over five minutes, injuring his left arm, and said they only stopped when he escaped into a nearby room and locked the door until they left.
The men also smashed eight desktop computers and an internet server, and stole technical equipment from the outlet, according to Rabiu, Anka, and a police complaint filed by Thunder Blowers, which CPJ reviewed.
Police have opened an investigation into the attack, Anka said.
“Nigerian authorities must immediately investigate the attack on the Thunder Blowers news website and the assault of editor Mansur Rabiu, and ensure that the perpetrators are held to account,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, from New York. “The outlet’s equipment must be returned immediately, and authorities should make sure that such attacks do not go unpunished.”
Thunder Blowers covers politics and general news in Nigeria on its website and YouTube channel, where it has about 1,000 followers.
Rabiu told CPJ that the men approached him immediately after entering the office and inquired about Balarabe; after one of the men demanded Rabiu show his ID to confirm that he was not Balarabe, they began hitting him with sticks.
The men stole three laptops, four cameras, a server decoder with a hard disk, four lights, five phones, two radio transmitters and sound mixers, and two camera memory cards from the office, according to Rabiu, Anka, and the complaint.
In the police complaint, Thunder Blowers alleged that the men attacked the building on behalf of Musa Ardo, a youth leader for the ruling All Progressives Congress party in Zamfara, and identified one of the attackers as Zayyanu Abdullahi, a member of the state APC.
When CPJ called Ardo for comment, he denied any involvement in the attack and said he had never heard of Abdullahi. CPJ called and texted the APC’s spokesperson for Zamfara state, Yusuf Idris, but did not receive any reply.
Following the attack, Abdullahi called the outlet and said the raid was in response to recent interviews that criticized the state government, according to the police complaint and Anka, who listened to the call on speakerphone. Abdullahi offered to return the stolen items, but Anka told him that the matter was out of his hands and the police would handle it.
CPJ was unable to find contact information for Abdullahi. Anka told CPJ that the police had invited Abdullahi and Ardo for questioning in the case.
Balarabe told CPJ via phone that he received a call on January 2 from a friend saying that people planned to attack him the following day; he said he decided to avoid the office on January 3 and was not in Zamfara state at the time of the attack.
Balarabe posted about the warning on his Facebook page and said he discussed the threats with Anka before the men arrived at the office, and they planned to report the threats to police the following day.
CPJ called and texted Zamfara state police spokesperson Muhammad Shehu for comment, but did not receive any reply.