by Abdulkareem Haruna
Nigerian soldiers on Thursday arrested a Daily Trust reporter in Maiduguri, Borno State, over a report about the Boko Haram war.
The soldiers who stormed the secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) at New GRA, handcuffed the reporter, Olatunji Omirin, forced him into a Hilux van and drove away.
Mr Omirin was driven to Maimalari Barracks of the 7 Division Nigeria Army were an officer, a deputy director military intelligence was waiting, PREMIUM TIMES learned.
Mr. Omirin was kept in detention till about 7 p.m. when the military released him after coming under pressure from other journalists who promptly boycotted a major military function scheduled for 5 p.m.
The Theater Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Olusegun Adeniyi, a major general, who was to host the event, said he was not aware of the journalist’s arrest.
Mr. Omirin told PREMIUM TIMES he was kept handcuffed for some time.
The reporter said he was arrested in connection with his recent reporting on the increasing attacks along the dreaded Kano-Maiduguri highway.
‘Not happy with reports’
He said the officer that ordered his arrest told him the military was not happy with some of his reports, and that the officer demanded to know his sources.
“The officer was furious with his boys for bringing me without my phone,” said Mr Omirin.
“When they took me by force at NUJ secretariat, my phone was not with me; that actually infuriated the man.”
The journalist said the deputy director, whose name he could not immediately determine, did not bother about Mr Tunji’s cuffed hands, until he protested.
“He said the military was not happy with some of my report particularly that of 20th January, and I said ‘is that why you have to handcuff me?’. It was then he apologised and said that it was his boys that acted in an overzealous,” the reporter narrated.
Mr Omirin said the military was interested in getting his mobile phone to possibly get his sources of information. Since that objective was not achieved, he was reluctantly released after his colleagues and office complained.
Mr Omirin’s arrest is the latest of such attacks on journalists. The military, locked in a decade-old war against the terror group Boko Haram, has repeatedly harrassed journalists over reports it considers critical.
In January 2019, armed soldiers invaded the Daily Trust regional office in Maiduguri, and arrested the paper’s regional editor, Uthman Abubakar, and a reporter, Ibrahim Sawab.
Their arrests were followed up with countrywide raid on Daily Trust offices by soldiers.
Journalists in Borno State, the epicentre of the crisis, say the intermittent arrests make them carry out their duties of reporting the insurgency and its attendant challenges with fear.