Nigeria’s secret police has claimed Yusuf Onimisi Siyaka, the man it illegally detained for at least 12 days for tweeting images of the March 30 ‘attempted jailbreak’ in its Abuja headquarters, was paid to tweet the gun-battle.
The spokesperson of the Department State Services, Marilyn Ogar, made the claim when she appeared on a morning TV talk show, Sunrise Daily, on Channels TV.
She said Mr. Siyaka, known as @Ciaxon on Twitter, admitted during interrogation that he posted the pictures for “pecuniary reasons”, a claim many analysts believe is untrue.
Ms. Ogar did not say who paid Mr. Siyaka and how much he was paid.
Mr Siyaka, according his tweets, was at a location close to the SSS headquarters while the gun-battle lasted.
He liveblogged the battle, tweeting images many followers and media organizations depended on for their understanding and reporting of the incident.
Some activists and bloggers who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES faulted Ms. Ogar’s claim, arguing that Mr. Siyaka could not have tweeted for money because he ran into the battle by chance and acted on impulse.
“He is not even a media guy, neither is he a security officer. He ran into the battle unknowingly. So how could he have been paid to tweet something he never knew was going to happen?” an activist, who requested anonymity for fear of harassment by the SSS, said.
The SSS claimed his tweets were serious security threats to Nigeria.
“Why will you mortgage the security of your country because of a few naira (Nigerian currency) notes you were given?” Ms. Ogar said.
But several activists rose in fierce defence of Mr. Siyaka Wednesday, saying it was unlikely he told the SSS or anyone for that matter that he was paid to tweet.
“If at all he said that, he most likely did so under duress,” one activist said.
Sources within the security circle told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Siyaka was called in, intimidated and held for so long to help the SSS maintain a single story about the gun-battle.
Our sources said Mr. Siyaka, a reliable witness of what happened that day, is a credible source of authentic information on the gunbattle and that the SSS feared he would have distorted their narrative of what happened that day if allowed to remain free.
“If he was not in custody, he would have been a hot source for media organizations and diplomats,” one of our sources said.
Free but not Free
When PREMIUM TIMES asked Mr. Siyaka to confirm the SSS claims, he immediately hung the phone and did not answer subsequent calls.
Although Mr. Siyaka was released from custody last Saturday, he still lives in fear of the SSS and appears visibly traumatised, people who have sighted him since his release told PREMIUM TIMES.
He is yet to tweet or post updates on Facebook since his release.
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