IPI, NGE, NUJ: How editor of FirstNews Online newspaper was released

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More details have emerged on the abduction of Segun Olatunji, Editor of FirstNews Online Newspaper.

Gunmen in military uniform had invaded Olatunji’s residence at Iyana Odo, Abule Egba area of Lagos State, on March 15, and abducted him.

Olatunji was released Thursday in Abuja after intense media pressure.

Speaking after his release, Olatunji said those behind his ordeal were close to the government.

He narrated his experience in captivity during a press briefing organised by the leaderships of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and International Press Institute (IPI).

The journalist said: “At first, they put me in a cell. There I was left with leg and hand cuffs. And at a point, one of the officers came and tightened the right leg and the right hand and I was there growing in pain. And they didn’t loosen it until about two or three days later. And at that time, the whole part of my body was getting nodules. In fact, up till now, I can still feel the pain.

 “While in detention, they were asking me questions about certain stories that FirstNews had carried. They first told me that I was one of those abusing the chief of defence intelligence. They didn’t say much about that.

 “Then they also asked about a story we carried about the Chief of Staff to the president, and that was a major thing. That’s why I told some people earlier that those behind my arrest are people behind the corridors of power, who are not happy with what FirstNews is doing and are bent on taking their own pound of flesh.”

Musikilu Mojeed, President of IPI Nigeria; Chris Isiguzo, President of NUJ, and Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Secretary of NGE, attended the briefing.

Uwugiaren said for days, the leaderships of the IPI, the NGE and the NUJ frantically searched for Olatunji.

He said: “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… 

“However, on Monday, IPI Nigeria was able to determine (without doubt) that the journalist was being detained and tortured by the Defence Intelligence Agency in Abuja. The IPI then informed the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa and the Chief of Defence Intelligence, Major General Emmanuel Undiandeye, of its finding and asked them to release our colleague immediately.

 “We also provided that information to top government officials who also reached out to Generals Musa and Undiandeye. Again, they lied that the journalist was not in their custody. Yet our sources were telling us we needed to act fast to save our colleague.

 “One of the core missions of the free press is to serve as a watchdog on power. The press, as we all know, is the connection between the people and the government. If the press is not allowed to carry out its social and constitutional responsibilities but instead obligated to power, it simply serves as an extension of power.

“This is not the end of this matter. The Nigerian media community shall consult further in the next few days on the actions to take against the CDS, the CDI, and the military regarding this matter.”

Meanwhile, the military authorities, on Thursday, confirmed Olatunji’s release to our correspondent, saying he was released to the Secretary of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Iyobosa Uwugiaren of Thisday Newspapers and Yomi Odunuga of The Nation Newspapers in Abuja.

The officer said the two stakeholders were asked to pledge that they would produce Olatunji anytime he’s needed at the Defence Intelligence Agency.

The Director, Defence Media Operations, Edward Buba, a major general, at a press briefing at Defence Headquarters, Abuja, on Thursday, denied abduction of the journalist, saying the military was not known for abducting journalists.

“What I can tell you is that the military is not in the business of abducting journalists; it was not known for that,” Buba said while reacting to a question on the whereabouts of the detained editor.


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