A newspaper publisher in Nigeria was arrested and detained after his publication carried an article alleging a state governor was involved in money laundering.
Owei Kobina Sikpi of the Weekly Star, published in the main southern oil industry centre of Port Harcourt, was arrested on Tuesday by state security police and detained without charge since then, his colleagues said.
The security agents who raided the premises of the newspaper also impounded its current print-run of 4,000 copies and arrested four other employees operating the printing press who were later freed, editor of the paper, Obinna Ahiaidu, told reporters.
“Nobody has been allowed access to Sikpi since his arrest. Not even his lawyer,” said Ahiaidu.
Ahiaidu said he believed the arrest was over a story in last week’s edition of the paper alleging that Rivers State Governor Peter Odili laundered money through the purchase of an airplane for his trips.
President Olusegun Obasanjo’s launched a war against corruption when he was sworn into office in 1999, but state security police frequently clamp down on news publications alleging corruption in high places. In May, reports that Obasanjo’s wife, Stella, was involved in a government real estate scam, earned another journalist a week in jail.
The conduct of Nigeria’s 36 state governors has come under increasing scrutiny since Bayelsa State Governor, Dieprieye Alameiseigha, was arrested in London in September by the British police and charged with money laundering offences. He was released on bail by a magistrate on Thursday, but is not allowed to leave London until the end of his trial.
Both Rivers and Bayelsa states are located in the oil-rich Niger Delta, where states get an extra 13 percent allocation of federal money, the source of more than 80 percent of total government revenue in Nigeria.
There have been widespread allegations that many state governors are siphoning their share of federal revenue allocations into private banks outside of Nigeria.
Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission says more than US $17 billion in cash and assets belonging to state governors have been traced abroad.
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