Benin Republic Arrests FIJ Editor Damilola Ayeni, Labels Him A ‘Jihadist’

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The Police in the Republic of Benin, a neighbouring West African country, have detained the Editor of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), Damilola Ayeni.

Ayeni was arrested by Benin authorities while on a trip to the country for the second session of a Nigeria-Benin environmental journalism report in the largest city in their northern region, according to FIJ.

In a report, FIJ said it received a distress text from Ayeni but it was deleted within seconds of delivery on one of its communication channels. The text read: “I have just been arrested.”

The report said no other message followed the text and Ayeni consequently told his colleagues on a phone call that he was briefly held because the Beninese police said that there were security concerns in the area.

FIJ later said the release-and-rearrest tactic is often used by Beninese police to keep their captives in the station without alerting their friends and relatives.

The investigative media organisation could not get in touch with Ayeni until the early hours of Tuesday when a man who identified himself as the ‘Commissioner of the Central Police Station of Parakou in Benin’ said that the editor was being held at Commisseria Central, Parakou Police Station.

“Hello sir, I am the Commissioner of the Central Police Station of Parakou in Benin. Do you know Mr. Damilola of Nigerian nationality?” he asked in his opening text, before adding: “He is arrested in Penjari [sic] Park in northern Benin for jihadist [sic]. He would [sic] be presented to the prosecutor and sent to prison. He risks 10 to 20 years in prison. What do you think of his situation, sir?”

The said officer communicated with FIJ on WhatsApp with the number +22946066050, with the profile name ‘Agnisso Lounko’.

The report added that FIJ is currently making efforts to establish physical contact with Ayeni in Parakou.

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