‘Damilola Ayeni, Editor of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), is currently being detained at the Commisseriat Central, Parakou Police Station, in Parakou, Republic of Benin, by the Beninese police.
Ayeni was on a trip to the Republic of Benin for the second leg of a Nigeria-Benin environmental journalism report when the authorities of Nigeria’s western neighbours seized him in the largest city in their northern region.
On Thursday August 31, FIJ had 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.”
Nothing followed the text and Ayeni subsequently told his colleagues on a phone call that he was briefly held because the authorities stated that there were security concerns in the area (It wasn’t until much later that FIJ learnt that the release-and-rearrest tactic is often used by Beninese police to keep their captives in the station without alerting their friends and relatives.).
FIJ subsequently lost touch with him until the early hours of Tuesday morning when a man who identified himself as the ‘Commissioner of the Central Police Station of Parakou in Benin’ said that Ayeni was being held at Commisseriat 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’.
FIJ is currently working to establish physical contact with Ayeni in Parakou.
Ayeni is not only FIJ’s editor, he is an environment expert and activist.
He was on the longlist for the 2023 edition of the One World Media Awards’ International Journalist of the Year category. He was also shortlisted for the 2021 edition of Thomson Foundation Young Journalists (FPA) Award’s environment category.
Be the first to receive special investigative reports and features in your inbox.