A Lagos based photojournalist who was severely attacked for taking shots of passengers hanging from a moving train has slammed a N50 million suit against the Nigeria Railway Corporation.
Babatunde Ogundeji, a freelance journalist, is seeking N50 million as damages for the battery he received at the hands of “agents, servants and privies” of the NRC in August last year at the NRC’s Ikeja Terminus.
On August 13, 2012, Mr. Ogundeji, 50, was taken to the hospital with head injuries after he was attacked with bottles and planks for taking pictures of people travelling on the roof of railway coaches.
His camera was seized by the thugs, but later retrieved by the NRC management.
“They beat me. They hit me in the head until I ran to the police station at Ikeja Local Government,” Mr. Ogundeji had told Lagos based PM News after the incident.
“I had given my camera to someone else and since they did not see me with the camera, they started beating me.”
In his suit dated June 13, 2012, at the Federal High Court, Lagos, Mr. Ogundeji insisted that the thugs were “employees, agents, servants and privies of the respondent (NRC) and passengers conveyed by the respondent’s train seized the applicant’s camera from his colleague.”
“While being tormented, the applicant ran for his dear life to the nearest police station beside the Local Government Secretariat, only to be told that the station is a traffic division of the Police and that criminal complaints are not lodged or taken there; the applicant was advised to go to Area F Police Station, Ikeja Lagos State,” Mr. Ogundeji, a former photo editor with the Compass Newspaper stated.
The camera was later released by the Divisional Police Officer of the Railway Police Station, Agege, Lagos, and the Station Manager, “on the condition that the photographs would not be published”, Mr. Ogundeji said.
Mr. Ogundeji said that he went ahead to publish the pictures in exercise of his “journalistic rights to freedom of expression and the press and the right to receive and impart information.”
Few days after the incident, the Lagos chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists embarked on a protest to denounce assault of its members in the state.
Mr. Ogundeji wants the court to declare that the action of the “agents, servants and privies” of the NRC was a violation of his right to life and right to dignity of human person.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit. Mr. Ogundeji also wants the court to declare that seizing his camera was a violation of his rights to freedom of expression and the press.
He said his rights violated by the agents of NRC were as contained in Sections 33(1), 34(1) and 39(1) of the Constitution and Articles 4, 5 and 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.