Deporting Colin Fox

Image source: Marcel Oosterwijk (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Image source: Marcel Oosterwijk (CC BY-SA 2.0)

On Sunday, February 15, 1976, Colin Fox, Reuters’ chief correspondent, filed a report for the agency about tribal disturbances in Kano, Nigeria. These disturbances were an outcome of the unsuccessful February 13 military coup which resulted in the assassination of the Nigerian Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed. Fox’s report enraged the Nigerian Military Government.

The following day, Nigerian security police went to the Reuters’ Lagos office to find Colin Fox. They arrested him and his two Nigerian assistants {Gabriel Ogunsekan and Godwin Ironkwe} and closed the Reuters’ office. They told Fox that they were ‘inviting’ him for an interview with the Inspector-General of Police about his story. The two assistants were released later that afternoon after two and a half hours which Ogunsekan described as polite interrogation.

The police kept Fox locked up because orders from the Government was to deport him to neighbouring Benin that night. Fox’s deportation was on the basis that the Nigerian Military Government considered his report to be a mischievous account by a foreign news agency designed to create alarm and foment inter-communal hostility within the country.

Several policemen also went to his house to get his wife and seven-year-old daughter for deportation. Marianne Fox had thirty minutes to pack their belongings. Fox and his family travelled separately that Monday to the Beninese/Nigeria border. He was under armed guard in a prison-type truck while his wife and daughter were in a police Land Rover. According to Marianne Fox, the Beninese patrol authorities refused to accept the family. So the Nigerian police returned their prisoners to Lagos and kept them for the night. The next day they tried to get the Beninese to accept the family but their request was denied again.

The frustrated Nigerian policemen decided against taking the family back to Lagos and opted instead to smuggle them into Benin. They drove the family down some back road to a small stream and put them into a canoe and illegally set them off on a thirty-minute boat journey from Nigerian shores into Benin’s territory. The family arrived at a small Beninese village called Meridjonou where they got a taxi to the capital city – Cotonou. They were wired funds from England to travel out of Benin.

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