Punish DIA officers who detained, tortured FirstNews Editor, journalists urge Tinubu

NIGERIAN media community, comprising the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), the International Press Institute (IPI) and the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) have called on President Bola Tinubu to punish officers of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) who were behind the detention and torture of FirstNews Editor, Segun Olatunji.

They made the call at a press briefing on Thursday, March 28, in Abuja, while announcing Olatunji’s release, and condemning the military’s action.

“If officers in a military institution like DIA could hack a journalist’s telephone, mishandle his wife, abduct him, detain him secretly, and disobey senior officials of the Federal Government, then our democracy cannot be said to be safe. Although our colleague has now been released, we are calling on President Tinubu to ensure that these officers are punished for their bad behaviour.

“By all standards, the actions of the DIA, General Musa and Major General Undiandeye are against the provisions of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution and other international instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory – which forbid the detention of any citizen or resident beyond 48 hours, except with a valid court order,” the IPI president Musikiliu Mojeed said on behalf of the group.

IPI, NGE, NUJ press conference
IPI, NGE, NUJ at the press conference

He described the actions of the DIA as a direct attack on press freedom and urged journalists to remain united and continue to support one another.

Olatunji was abducted from his home in Lagos by armed men in military uniform on Friday, March 15 and his whereabouts were kept secret for over a week.

His detention is linked to a report “Revealed: Defence Chief running office like family business – Public Interest Lawyers,” which was published by his organisation.

The IPI, NGE and NUJ representatives, Mojeed, Iyobosa Uwugiaren and Chris Isiguzo, disclosed that efforts to find out his location and secure his release initially proved abortive, despite the involvement of top government officials including the National Security Adviser (NSA) Nuhu Ribadu and the Minister for Information and National Orientation Agency Mohammed Idris Malagi.

“For days, the leaderships of the IPI, the NGE and the NUJ frantically searched for Mr Olatunji. We interacted with the presidency, the Nigeria Police Force (Lagos and Abuja), the Nigerian Army, the Defence Intelligence Agency, the Ministry of Interior, the Defence Headquarters, the Office of the National Security Adviser, the Ministry of Information and National Orientation, and the State Security Services (SSS).

“Other security agencies were also contacted. But all the efforts failed until last night. The military claimed the journalist was not in their custody. They lied to us and top government officials whose interventions we sought,” Mojeed stated.

On Wednesday, March 27, IPI Nigeria, in a statement, called on Tinubu to direct the military hierarchy to immediately release the abducted journalist or charge him to court if he was being accused of any offence.

Olatunji was released Thursday morning as the DIA officials handed him over to members of the media community by the roadside in Abuja.

He was present at the briefing and shared his ordeal with journalists.

My life not safe – Olatunji

Narrating how he was abducted in Lagos and flown to Abuja by men in military uniforms, first believed to be non-state actors, Olatunji expressed fear for his life.

“Given the series of events, I want to say that my life is not safe. Because they know my house. They could have arrested me in my home town on March 8.

“I was there for an ICT programme by my senator, and they would have arrested me there because someone there told me how they had been trailing me, how I entered the NUJ bus at my home town, how I alighted at Abeokuta and the particular time I alighted,” he said.

He noted that the soldiers had arrived in three vehicles at his Lagos residence after apprehending his wife from her shop and forcing her to lead them to him.






     

     

    Olatunji said he was blindfolded throughout the flight to Abuja and kept in a cell where his hands and feet were tightly cuffed.

    He and his wife’s phones were confiscated, and he was interrogated while being detained by the DIA.

    Olatunji is one of many journalists who have been attacked, especially by state actors in Nigeria.

    The ICIR reported that at least 39 journalists were harassed by state and non-state actors in 2023 alone.

    Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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