Government Use Of Extra Legal Measures Against Media Practitioners A Case Study Of Sani Abacha Regime.

Mass Communication Project Topics

Get the Complete Project Materials Now! »



APPROVAL PAGE                                                                III

DEDICATION                                                                        IV

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT                                                       V

TABLE OF CONTENT                                                          VII

CHAPTER ONE                                                                     1

BACKGROUND OF  THE STUDY                                       1

STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM                                       7

OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY                                            8

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY                                         9

RESEARCH QUESTIONS                                                     10

RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS                                                   11

DEFINITION OF TERMS                                                      11

ASSUMPTIONS                                                                     13

LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY                                           13


LITERATURE REVIEW                                                        15


METHODOLOGY                                                                  27


DATA ANALYSIS                                                                 34


SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATION                                      42

REFERENCES                                                                       45












The media as the watchdog of the society aluminates its light on the  society not forgetting its responsibility of entertainment, information and educating its audience as to keep them abreast of the dynamism of the world, condemning the ills of the government and the governed,  all geared towards a better society. 


Median practitioners by implication covers  all the people who are trained in the art of journalism and work in radio and television station, newspapers and magazines and other medium through which people get informed.  The concept of the media developed right from the time the printing press was invented five centuries ago.  The invention revolutionized man’s ability to communicate ideas and information.  But, from that time, there was always this desire of  those who had control of  political authority/ power to create barriers against the free flow of ideas and information which the believe could threaten  their rule.


Press  freedom as a  concept of libertarian philosophy  is always assailed by those  who us quo maintained hence use of extract legal measures against medial  practitioners which was colossal during military era.


For media practitioners to carryout their duties effectively and efficiently, they should be granted  certain degrees of freedom hence absolute freedom is unattainable.  Media practitioners in trying to meet up with  its expected roles have encountered grave unhealthy confrontations ranging from harassment, intimidation, detention, to  censorship which is more pronounced during military dictatorship.

This work is restricted to Late General Sani Abacha military junta who  reveled in gagging and  muzzling the media using  state security apparatus despite the fact that modern  constitution endavours  to safeguard basis  freedom which the military had always defied, flouted, suppressed and violated with impunity.

This government use of extra legal measures against media practitioners can be traced back to  the infamous Decree No. 4 as promulgated by general Buchari (Ltd) in 1984 which endavoured to  strangle press  freedom . 

 The Decree become the  sword of Damocles of dangling over the head of every journalist.   Of course,  the two of Nduka lrabor and Tunde Thompson were detained for violating the infamous Decree No.4 otherwise known as the “ Public officers protection from false Accusation”

Decree 1984 for publishing story about changes in Nigerian High Commissioner in Britain whose to be withdrawn and replaced by Rtd. Gen Hannaniya.  They refused to divulge the  source of their  information.  They were later charged to court, tried and convicted under the provisions of the Decree,  on April 4, 1984.  they were jailed for 18  months.


It was intriguing that after Irabor and Thompson had been convicted, Rtd Gen.  Hanvaniya was subsequently accredited to UK as Nigerian High Commissioner.


In 1995, the quarter of Mrs. Chris Anyanwu, Kunse Agibade, George Mba and Ben Charles  Obi were detained in different prisons across the country on 15 years jail sentence each by a special military tribunal headed by Brigadier General Patrick Aziza for allege coup plot which has to do with  reports carried by their magazines on the alleged Col. Gwadabe Coup of 1995.

In another development, security agents  swooped on Onome Osifo-whiskey  and Whistled him away on  Nov. 9, 1997 with his colleagues at Tell headquarters at the mercy  of invading security  agents who had come for the previous week edition of the magazine which was titled ‘why Abacha  won’t hand  over’ Tell premises was sealed off and all the staff who  were around beat a hasty retreat.  Thinking that a parted delivery  van continued the magazine in  question the operative brought in a tow van and force –fully removed  it to their operational base.  

In Feb 14, 1994, News watch magazine carried news on the drug war and in March 7, News watch reported the trial of the suspect which unveiled the deify deals in  drug agency,  tribunal and justice ministry.  After  this report, the aggrieved tribunal judge Fumilayo  Oni-Okpaku “tried” and  detained News watch editors for contempt.

Following this incident, on  Aprial 12, 1994, the Sledgehammer fell on News  watch against government  descended on the magazine  arresting its  editors  and charge them to court for interview published by the magazine.  The subsequent trial  of the accuses persons did not seem to meet internationally recognized standard of fairness as a result of articles they had published concerning the alleged coup and other stories.

Military dictators have  maintained unabated posture in trying tp gag the press like laying siege at media houses like  Tell Newswatch and the news just to mention but a few.  The apogee of proscription and champ down on the press took place  in August 1994 Acholonu (1999:30) was in line with his observation when he maintained that the zenith of the  champ down on the   press was the outright proscription, in  August, 1994, of the National concord, the Punch and the Guardian  group of newspapers by three retroactive decrees.  They  were captioned:

The Concord News papers and African Concord weekly magazine (proscription & prohibition from circulation )Decree No. 8 The proscribed papers were considered too critical of the ruling Junta, especially during the renewed struggle by port democracy forces to undermine military rule.

Journalist have always had the onerous duty of acting as the  conscience of the nation, the watchdog of the society, defenders  of the rights of the citizens, and promoters of justice and  fairness.  In the process of doing this, they often fail under the slege hammer  of government,  especially that is run by a military tyrant-

The type of military  dictatorship which bestrode upon Nigeria for decades since independence, like colossus, startled every right- thinking person.  Regimes upon  regimes inflicted upon the citizenry the pains of authoritarianism and gagged the press with merciless brutality.  But these successive military regimes only succeeded in “Killing the messenger and not the massage.”



The study knowing the harsh treatment media practitioners faced during the Abacha junta,  and how the press was gagged and muzzled intends to x-ray how the regime  disregarded the tenets of free press which is geared towards dissemination of information as to get the people informed and then watchdog the society.   It will be germane to know that social responsibility will be defeated it the government continues to muzzle and gap  the press.

It should be highlighted  here  that press has always found the environment unfriendly under military rule due to its extreme control and censorship which hampers free press.  The harsh conditions under which media practitioners work has not deferred them, though  in some  cases they had to be detained, arrested, harassed and copies of Newspapers and magazines confiscated which the junta feels their contents are unpalatable to the state and its agents .

The work  tries to find out how late  Gen Sani Abacha junta used state security paraphernalia and other extra legal measures to muzzle the press as to get her pander to its whims and caprices which could not dampen the spirit and courage of the media in  its surveillance and watchdog role as to entrench egalitarian   and corrupt-free society.



The press has been described as the  fourth Estate of the realm. Because full and accurate information no matters of public interest is the means by which governments,  institutions,  organizations and all others in authority, at whatever, level, are held responsible to the  public.  But, often, we find that those in authority tend to  conceal that which is inconvenient or likely to arouse public opinion  against them.

Given the financial and political shenanigans that transpired during Gen Abacha days and the ordeal media practitioners went through the period under review  which culminated into detention, arrest, harassment, post-censorship and subsequent closure of some media houses at different time, one decided to dabble into this heart-rending topic in order to bring to the  fore the horrendous and harrowing experience journalists underwent during the  dare days pf dark –goggled Abacha.

This work is also meant  to unravel some of the extra judicial arrest and detention that were visited on journalists in the course of carrying out their duties,



Based on the terrain in which media practitioners  operate under military dictatorship, this highly instructive work is aimed to enlighten mass communication students and generating of  the citizenry to  gain secondary knowledge of how journalists were harassed, intimidated, detained,    brutalized and victimized under the draconian reign of Late Gen. Abacha, as  it will give an uniformed mind an insight about the hazards of journalism.

This study is expedient as it will help  Nigerian journalists, Non governmental organizations (NGOS) to look back at the inglorious past, present  environment under which journalists  practice and crave towards ensuring a glorious and landable future.

This work will also help to evaluate critically and analyze the extent to which much talked about press freedom has thrived under military dictatorship and how unfriendly the environment was for media practitioners  to practice



Some  sets of questions were outline and  were attempted to answer within  the scope  of the study.  The under listed  are the outline questions:

1.                 To what extent does Ownership affect editorial contents?

2.                 Were those journalists arrested tried in competent court of law or military  tribunal?

3.                 Were journalist arrested under Gen-Abacha regime objective in their noting?

4.                 Was Abacha  regime the most hostile  military regime to media practitioners?


          H1     Ownership affects media content more in military junta.

          Ho.    Ownership affects media content more in a democratic          government.

H2.    Repressive laws  & Decrees are more under  military government

Ho.    Repressive laws are less in democratic government.

H3.    There was much champ down and proscription of media houses during Abacha regime

Ho.    There was less champ down and proscription of media houses during Abacha regime.



In defining the terms, the study will give vivid explanation of press laws, extra judicial measure, media practitioners.

These aforementioned terms will be given operational and concept ional definitions  .


Press laws

Conceptional definition of  press laws means those rules that  media practitioners must obey and abide  with in carrying out their journalistic practice.

Operational definition of press laws are the laws of defamation, libel,  sedition, invasion of privacy , printing of obscene materials.

Extra Judicial Measures.

Conceptional – These are those laws or measures that are not  connected with a court of law or judicial  process.

Operational – These are measures like Harassment, intimidation, detention, proscription, post-censorship, trials  in tribunals etc.   

Media Practitioners.

Coneptional –These are those trained in the art of gathering and dissemination of  information through the medium of mass communication.

Operational – These are Tell magazine, News watch, This day, NTA, Radio Nigeria, Guardian e.t.c.




There is this assumption that press should be free as to have the right to write freely about government activities, its agencies and other  organizations through its publications and programmes.


          It is also believed that  repressive laws and extra judicial       measures which retards journalistic practices used to be more         pronounced during Gen –Sani Abacha days  of terror.

          Above all, there is also this assumption that media  ownership goes a  long way in determining media contents.



In  the course of writing this project, the researcher encountered a lot of obstacles  which could  have  dampened the enthusiasm but he remaindered lentless and unruffled so that he could put up a good academic research work.


Some of difficulties encountered which can recounted  ranged from inability of the researcher to get hold of those in charge  at the regional officers of Tell Magazine, News watch magazine, The News magazine and Guardian News papers which made  the researcher to spend reasonable amount visiting these offices.  There were also  cases where some of their looked incorporative and reluctant to assist.

Financial constraint restricted the researcher to Enugu, though the researcher had hoped to travel beyond Enugu for the research work.

Academic work load  back in school also retarded the  pace of progress of this project that it had to be abandoned for several weeks so that assignment and quizzes could be given adequate attention.

Lastly the work in  the department took a heavy toll  on the  research that the researcher gets home worn-out and finished without putting the project in his order of the day’s priority.

Get Full Work

Report copyright infringement or plagiarism

Be the First to Share On Social

1GB data
1GB data
1GB data
Government Use Of Extra Legal Measures Against Media Practitioners A Case Study Of Sani Abacha Regime.