LAGOS, Nigeria – Gunmen shot and killed a Nigerian journalist at his home the same day two others died while attempting to cover fighting between Christians and Muslims in the nation's restive central highlands, authorities said Monday.
The outbreak of violence highlights the daily dangers confronting local journalists in Africa's most populous nation.
In Lagos, police spokesman Frank Mba said gunmen on Saturday night raided the home of Edo Ugbagwu, a reporter who covered court cases for the daily newspaper The Nation. Mba said Ugbagwu's younger brother witnessed the men begin an argument with Ugbagwu that led to the shooting of the 42-year-old journalist.
Mba said detectives on the case had yet to come up with a motive for the slaying. Lawal Ogienagbon, a deputy editor at The Nation, said Ugbagwu hadn't been working on any controversial stories leading up to his death and had received no threats.
"He worked in the courts. All you do is hear from both sides and whatever the judge does, you report," Ogienagbon told The Associated Press. "We can't say why he was killed."
In Jos, the central Nigerian city at the epicenter of recent religious violence, two journalists working for the Christian publication The Light Bearer newspaper died Saturday. The Nigeria Union of Journalists identified them as deputy editor Nathan S. Dabak, 36, and reporter Sunday Gyang Bwede, 39.
The union said unknown attackers stabbed the two men to death as they were on their way to an assignment. Earlier that day, the body of a 13-year-old boy was discovered in front of a mosque in the city, sparking protests and attacks.
The union called on the military and police to find and prosecute the men's killers.
"It is unfortunate that men of the fourth estate ... in Nigeria are not accorded the deserved respect and recognition in the course of performing their duty — especially in a crisis," the union said in a statement Monday.
The violence in and around Jos has left more than 500 people dead since the beginning of the year. Covering the attacks remains dangerous for reporters as well. After killings in Christian villages in March, enraged residents attacked a Muslim journalist covering a mass burial. The man escaped, but suffered serious injuries and lost all of his equipment.
Violent crime remains a problem for all Nigerians in the nation of 150 million people, as police often shake down those they are supposed to protect for bribes.
However, journalists have been targets over their reporting in the past. In the country's most infamous case, journalist Dele Giwa of Newswatch magazine died after opening a letter bomb sent to his home in 1986. The crime remains unsolved, and many blame the nation's security services under dictator Ibrahim Babangida for the slaying. Babangida recently announced his intention to run as a candidate in next year's presidential election.
The most recent killing of a journalist happened last year. Bayo Ohu, a politics editor from the daily newspaper The Guardian, bled to death after being shot at his house in Lagos.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists identified several attacks in Nigeria last year on reporters.
"Working as a local journalist in Nigeria is becoming an increasingly hazardous profession," said Tom Rhodes, the committee's Africa Program coordinator. "Nigerian police have a poor track record in resolving the murders of local journalists and the killers know that."