NEW YORK, June 14, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- A Nigerian journalist was assaulted by an immigration officer in the capital Abuja Tuesday, according to local journalists and news reports. Joshua Uma, a journalist with the daily Leadership, was on assignment covering a protest by retirees over non-payment of pensions.
An immigration officer identified by his name tag as Akinmodiro and attached to the office of the Pension Reform Task Team had refused to allow Uma and other journalists speak to team officials for their reaction to the pensioners' grievances, according to media reports.
Uma told CPJ he proceeded to write down Akinmodiro's name to put on record the immigration officer's obstructing the journalists. This led to Akinmodiro attacking him, he said.
"The guy came after me from beyond the counter. I tried to restrain him but he grabbed me and started pulling. In the scuffle my wrist watch got cut. He held it and never wanted to give it to me," Uma said.
Nigeria's Immigration Service spokesman, Joachim Olumba, told CPJ the case would be investigated. In a telephone interview with CPJ, the spokesman for the Pension Reform Task Team, Hassan Salihu, said an official apology had been presented to Uma. Although Uma's watch was later returned, the team Chairman Abdulrahman Maina also promised the journalist a new watch, Salihu told CPJ.
"What happened is regrettable. The immigration officer has since been removed from his post to be reposted back to his command," Salihu said.
"We are dismayed by the assault on Joshua Uma but pleased that authorities have responded appropriately," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. "We urge Nigerian officials to carry out their pledge for an investigation."