A Nigerian journalist, Ahmad Salkida, on Tuesday accused the Nigerian government of rendering him homeless, saying he felt “duped” into speaking well of the government after he was declared wanted by the Army.
“I was made to say all was well,” Mr. Salkida said on Twitter moments ago. “I thought they were going to undo what they have done, but it’s clear the plot is to ruin my life completely.”
Mr. Salkida was among those declared wanted by the Nigerian Army on August 14 over alleged ties to the extremist Boko Haram sect.
He returned to Nigeria on September 5 and was immediately taken into custody by the State Security Service.
Two days later, Mr. Salkida came out to debunk reports that he was arrested.
“Contrary to reports, I was not arrested. I had very engaging conversations with officers. The atmosphere was mutually respectful,” Mr. Salkida said in a September 7 tweet. “The discussions opened useful insights that are benefiting to both sides on the discussion table. I wish to thank most especially family.”
The Nigerian government and security agencies did not issue any statement about Mr. Salkida’s arrest, but the military had said in August that the journalist and his two colleagues were never declared wanted.
Instead, the Defence Headquarters said they were invited to help with the war against Boko Haram.
But Mr. Salkida, in his tweets, said the Nigerian government ruined his life by declaring him wanted while performing his legitimate duties as a journalist.
“My life is ruined,” Mr. Salkida said. “I have been rendered homeless. I have been told that I have NO rights at all, my family is scared. My crime is journalism.
“I have been silent. I have given leaders the benefit of doubt, but now it is time to fight back while I can. My life is in danger!”
“What kind of government will declare a citizen wanted for doing nothing but journalism, ruined my life and that of my family. Government just said ‘it was a misunderstanding,’ but to hell with you, you are on your own. What kind of government will do this to a harmless patriotic citizen.”
Mr. Salkida’s comment elicited mostly sympathetic reactions from Nigerians.
A human rights activist and social critic, Kayode Ogundamisi, said Mr. Salkida committed a “big mistake” when he came out to “cover up” for government.
“We all knew it was highly unlikely that the Nigerian security agencies or soldiers, for that matter, would treat someone they’ve been looking for in such a nice manner as painted by Mr. Salkida after his release, Mr. Ogundamisi said. “Even if he were, he shouldn’t have come out in that blistering way.”
“I have not seen a naive action of such a scale in a long time.”
Mr. Ogundamisi said Mr. Salkida was now trapped in the country and at risk of being abducted by Boko Haram, or even face worse ordeals.
“Let’s face it, this gentleman came to Nigerian on an emergency travel certificate,” Mr. Ogundamisi said. “Not only would it be very difficult for him to travel out of the country again to meet his family, he would also have to start spending his days watching his back because Boko Haram would most likely be on his trail.”
Mr. Ogundamisi implored the Nigerian government, and President Buhari in particular, to honour all assurances they gave Mr. Salkida and ensure his safety since he was not charged to court after turning himself in.
“President Buhari must understand that this case is not about Nigeria or Africa but of press freedom across the world because it is now clear that the government has no case against him,” Mr. Ogundamisi said. “Before him is an opportunity to show the world that he cherishes human rights and press freedom by honouring any kind of agreement or guarantees they gave Mr. Salkida while in their custody.”
Mr. Salkida did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ email seeking clarification about the government agency he entered into agreement with.
Army spokesperson, Sani Usman, did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ request for comments.
The State Security Service has not named a new spokesman since its former one retired a year ago.