Nigeria newspaper bombing sparks journalists call for Boko Haram talks
Nigeria's National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is urging the government to step up security around media houses across the country. This follows two coordinated bomb attacks on the offices of This Day newspaper in the capital, Abuja, and the northern city of Kaduna on Thursday. Seven people were killed and over 40 injured.
Islamic jihadist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement sent to the Premium Times newspaper. The statement warned of more attacks on the media because of what it claimed was the inaccurate coverage of its operations by both national and foreign media.
Shortly after midday on Thursday a car carrying explosives driven by a suicide bomber rammed through the gates of the This Day headquarters in Abuja and killed at least three people.
In a simultaneous attack at the newspaper’s offices in Kaduna, a would-be suicide bomber was pulled from his car by onlookers. He then threw explosives into the building, killing four people and injuring several others. He was later arrested.
NUJ national secretary Shuaibu Usman Leman told RFI the union has appealed to the government to ramp up security for journalists.
“During a visit to This Day’s offices in Abuja yesterday, the NUJ president asked the president to increase security around major news organizations in the country,” he said.
Yesterday’s attacks were not the first aimed at journalists this year. Two reporters were shot dead in January by gunmen thought to be members of Boko Haram in separate attacks in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri and the northern city of Kano.
The This Day newspaper group is owned by Nduka Obaigbena, a flamboyant multi-millionaire businessman, and includes the This Day newspaper and Arise magazine, which is sold around the world.
It is not the first time This Day has been targeted by Islamists. A decade ago a fatwa was issued against one of its journalist who had written an article suggesting the Prophet Mohammed would have taken a Miss World contestant for his wife.
“Boko Haram are aware that Muslims remember This Day’s coverage of Miss World, so they will have support for the attacks from certain quarters,” Shehu Sani, a civil rights activist told RFI. “This Day is also known as pandering to the political elites,” he adds.
Their given name, Boko Haram, means “Western education is a forbidden” in Hausa, the lingua franca of northern Nigeria. The group claim to be fighting against the negative impact it says Western-educated northern politicians have had on the local economy due to corruption and a lack of investment.
The bombing of This Day's offices in Abuja and Kaduna are the latest in a string of attacks in Nigeria, several of which have been claimed by Boko Haram. They include coordinated bomb and gun attacks in the northern city of Kano that killed over 180 people earlier this year, and the bombing of the UN building in Abuja that killed more than 20 people last year.
The NUJ and some civil society groups are calling on the government to enter into dialogue with the group.
“We also appealed to the government to consider dialogue with Boko Haram,” confirms Leman.
All previous attempts at peace talks between the government and Boko Haram have failed. But this latest attack on the media may prove to be the catalyst that helps keep the two parties at the negotiating table.
“We have a vibrant media here. They played a vital role in restoring democracy. So now the media have become targets of Boko Haram I’m certain they will force the government to the negotiating table,” said Sani.