Members of the National Youth Service Corp carry the body of their colleague, the reporter Precious Owolabi, in Abuja on July 23. Owolabi was fatally shot while covering protests in the Nigeria capital. PHOTO: Supplied by CPJ

Johannesburg - Precious Owolabi, a reporter for the privately owned Channels TV, was fatally shot during a protest in Abuja, Nigeria, earlier in the week prompting the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) to call for an immediate "swift and credible investigation".

The 23-year-old was shot while covering a confrontation between Shiite Muslim protesters and Nigerian police on Monday. He died the same day in a hospital. Members of the religious sect had been protesting over the detention of Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria.

"Journalists should never be targeted during the course of their work, and when members of the press are harmed, those responsible must be held accountable," said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal on Friday.

"A swift and credible investigation into the shooting that killed Precious Owolabi is critical for journalists in Nigeria to believe the government is committed to their safety."

Channels TV said that Owolabi was working at the station as part of Nigeria's National Youth Service Corps, a one-year work assignment carried out by all graduates before the age of 30.

CPJ said Nigeria police spokesperson, Frank Mba, spoke to the organisation on the telephone. He said apart from Owolabi, deputy police commissioner Usman Umar had also been shot. Umar died from his injuries. 

"The first hypothesis is that these guys were all shot by the protesters and the deputy commissioner of police was shot point blank, at close range, by the protesters," said Mba

When asked if the police had fired shots during the confrontation, Mba said: "When the rioters started shooting at the policemen ... the policemen they needed to fire shots into the air to let [the protesters] know that [the police] equally have weapons. 

"They fired warning shots. When we handle protesters in this country we are guided by the principle of proportionality of force and we will always adhere to our rules of engagement and international best practices."

However, a journalist who was at the scene, but requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, told CPJ he saw police fire their guns and that he did not see protesters with firearms.

African News Agency (ANA)