Another Nigerian blogger arrested by ‘state agents’

Emenike Iroegbu
Emenike Iroegbu

Suspected State Security Service operatives on Tuesday arrested a blogger in Akwa Ibom State, in what activists see as as the latest in a string of crackdowns against free speech online.

Emenike Iroegbu, who publishes Abia Facts Newspaper, was arrested in front of his family by men suspected to be attached to the SSS field office in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, his wife, Ekaette, told PREMIUM TIMES.

Mrs. Iroegbu said the officials arrived at about 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday and carried out a search of their apartment.

“They took my husband’s laptops and phones and also seized my two phones as well,” Mrs. Iroegbu said. “They didn’t even enter quietly.”

Mrs. Iroegbu said the officials, numbering three, came in a black SUV which they used to whisk her husband away.

“I was unable to mark down the number plate,” Mrs. Iroegbu said. “I was busy begging them to kindly release one of my phones so I could at least be able to stay in touch.”

News of Mr. Iroegbu’s arrest lit up the social media on Wednesday morning, coming barely a month after Abubakar Usman, a pro-government blogger was arrested in Abuja in similar circumstances.

Although there was no official confirmation from the SSS on her husband’s arrest, Mrs. Iroegbu said she had learnt he had been transferred to Abia State field office of the secret police in Umuahia on Wednesday morning.

“They told me he was transferred to their station in Umuahia this morning, I pray nothing terrible happens to my husband,” she said.

Inibehe Effiong, a human rights lawyer who called media attention to Mr. Iroegbu’s arrest on Tuesday night, said the blogger was being sought over contents published on his website.

Mr. Effiong said some officials in Abia and Akwa Ibom States recently threatened Mr. Iroegbu after publishing some materials they deemed critical.

“It is on record that the Abia State-born blogger has been constantly harassed by the agents and officials of the Abia State Government over his publications,” Mr. Effiong said. “It is also on record that some government officials in Akwa Ibom State have been uncomfortable with some of his publications online.”

But Enyinnaya Appolos, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in Abia, said the state was not behind Mr. Iroegbu’s arrest, but confirmed he was wanted in the state on offences bordering on “defamation”.

“He recently published an article saying the governor buried a 9-year-old in the Government House in Umuahia,” Mr. Appolos told PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday afternoon. “We are going to request that the SSS should transfer him to us after facing charges in Akwa Ibom.”

Mr. Appolos sent PREMIUM TIMES a screen-grab of materials allegedly published by Abia Facts Newspaper about the Mr. Ikpeazu administration.

Some of the materials detailed how Mr. Ikpeazu allegedly aided the killing of pro-Biafran agitators in the state. The publication, quoting inside sources, also said Mr. Ikpeazu had intensified diabolical activities within the Government House during his political battle with Uche Ogah, after the latter was issued a certificate of return by INEC.

“We’re writing to the SSS to send him to Umuahia because we want him to come and prove all these things,” Mr. Appolos said.

Mr. Appolos said he could not confirm if Mr. Iroegbu had been transferred to Umuahia.

The State Director of SSS in Akwa Ibom did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES calls and text messages seeking comments for this story.

Ekerete Udoh, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Emmanuel Udom, did not respond to inquiries from PREMIUM TIMES about the development.

But Mr. Effiong said Mr. Iroegbu’s arrest showed that the matter was being treated as a criminal case because of the status of the individuals involved.

“I know he published some things on his website, but they should have sued for defamation of character and not arrest him based on that,” Mr. Effiong said. “The reason why they’re doing this is because it involved some governors or powerful people.”

“This criminal dimension that the authorities have taken the matter is clearly illegal.”

Mr. Effiong said Mr. Iroegbu’s arrest marked the latest in an “emerging capricious proclivities of political office holders to use security agencies to clamp down on Nigerians for exercising their constitutional liberties”.

Within the past one year, Nigeria has witnessed an upsurge in arrests of citizens over their activities on the Internet.

In August 2015, three bloggers —Demond Ike, Seun Oloketuyi and Chris Nwandu— were arrested and charged for offences that allegedly contravened Cybercrime Act in Lagos.

Mr. Ike spent six months in custody, parts of which were in Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison.

A month later, Emmanuel Ojo, was arrested in Abeokuta allegedly on the orders of Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun, after posting some “offensive” materials on Facebook. The charges preferred against him remained stalled in the Abeokuta Division of the Federal High Court.

Mr. Ojo said he had since fled Nigeria to another West African country after “threats from powerful people became unbearable.”

On August 8, 2016, Abubakar Usman, a pro-government blogger, was also arrested and detained for nearly two days for apparently publishing a report critical of the head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu.

“Democracy is being threatened in Nigeria by the rising display of intolerance to free speech,” Mr. Effiong said.

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  • Ola Onanugaola

    Is it Akwa Ibom State or Abia State?

    Editor, please proof read!!!!

  • Malik Isah

    this one na local problem naw?

  • katalyst

    Premium lies… So Uyo is Abia state capital?

  • Frank Opara

    Guys before going to press, there should have been proofreading to articles you publish as to the best of my knowledge Uyo is in Akwa Ibom and not the capital of Abia state.

  • vagabonds in power

    They said them want Buhari the monster—who————-who introduced decree 4—-now that u have him as the head of the Fulani Mayeti why una dey compalin———————u have a muzo muzo Bingo certificate less president————–in aso rock—live with it—Governors nko–what is the differece–when the head is rotten what do u expect of the tail?

  • ericdwise

    Seriously, the way some bloggers write stories without confirming the authenticity of the story is worrying. They think it is normal practice to write unconfirmed defamation reports without being held accountable!!. Even the online publisher who wrote unconfirmed stories about mr.Donald trumps wife has apologised when threatened with a law suit. A lot have closed shop because of similar stories. If you want to be WikiLeaks be sure published reports are confirmed with facts. Particularly abia facts news did throw caution to the winds in their heavily biased eerie stories about ikpeazu, stories that were personal attacks and direct accusations of murder, even when the government house gates were locked because of security concerns the publisher alleged a certain native doctor locked it for diabolical activities. How lower can this young blogger go???The way your wife is bothered was same way ikpeazus wife bothered about her husbands imagine you tarnished in your blind hatred for ikpeazu. Let him face the music and be charged to court for defamation of character, threat to life etc. To serve as a deterrent to other junk online publishers. If you must make it like other established bloggers you must be objective in your reporting. Any controversial reporters should be checked out before publishing…Good luck. I salute the so many online publishers that play to the rules and doing very well not wannabe publisher like the young man with DSS.

  • Man_Enough

    A prominent name handle will disappear from discuss forum for sometime.

    • Obosi Warrior

      Mostly those ones that claim they are in so so and so country, dining and wining with Queen Elizabeth and Obama, whereas they are in one remote location in Abia, abi Akwa- Ibom state. Imagine the GPS could not even identify the exact state capital – Uyo the capital of Abia state.

  • Chris_Akomas

    The Guy should be held accountable for the defamation of character. You cannot accuse someone of killing and expect him to not defend himself… Let this guy go there and clear himself. Blogger my foot. Is not about many likes and followers, is about writing without defamation

  • Obosi Warrior

    Truth the told, most of these so called bloggers as can be seen on this platform are just sick people. You see all sorts of demented people. How can you write such implicating stories and expect not to be whisked. Anyway sha, I hope you have the video tape of the event that happened in the government house, because if not, the shout for freedom of press and human rights would not save you from this one.
    This one don pass blogging, na madness e be!

  • MoreThanConqueror

    Freedom of Press is not and should not be misteken for license to say or write things that is capable of provoking ill feelings aganist the Governor or any one for that matter, What ills of the society does he intend to correct by alledging with his cheek in his mouth that a sitting Governor buried a 9 year old girl ostensibly to sit tight in the governor house,or casting spiritual spell so that Ogah will not get access in the Government house, such a weighty allegation must not be allowed to filter way like that, He must be brought to prove his case, this is preposterous that many without good conscience or whose conscience has been seared with hiot iron could go out of their ways to write about people with the mind to destroy their hard earned reputations, Anyone that sets anything by the civilised values should discourage that, let him be properly investigated or make a retraction and be let go ,so that people will readily know that the story was ill motivated and was just figments of his hollow imaginations