10 Nigerian journalists, others still in detention 5 days after arrest

The Nigerian Army and the State Security Service are yet to release 10 journalists and officials of a media organisation arrested five days ago at a hotel in Benin, their editor said.

Taiye Garrick, publisher and editor of Watchdog News, said his staff were also denied access to their lawyers.

Tony Abulu (Production Manager), Richard Hasley (Reporter), Opara Uche (Reporter), Handy Romeo Eze (Reporter), Kelvin Toryila (Video Editor), Lanre Ogunleye (IT associate), Balogun Ehigie (IT ), Kenneth Danpome (Head, IT), Mathew (Logistics Manager) and Joe Epi (Driver) were arrested at a hotel in Benin on September 21.img_3401-resized-800

The soldiers, in a joint operation with SSS operatives, carried out the arrests at Douban Hotel in Benin, the Edo State capital.

They were in Benin to carry out a survey of voters and report on early preparations of INEC and other stakeholders ahead of the gubernatorial election holding there on September 28, Mr. Garrick told PREMIUM TIMES.

The Army in a statement the following day said the journalists were arrested based on “credible security reports.”

The Army denied brutalising them.

img_20160925_132628-resized-800In the statement, signed by its spokesman, Sani Usman, the Army said the reporters were caught with “quite a number of incriminating items including INEC sensitive materials.”

Neither the Army nor the SSS has explained why the reporters have not been charged to court despite still being in detention.

But Mr. Garrick emailed pictures to PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday showing his staff in their office in Abuja and on the field in Benin before their arrest.

One of the staff, Kelvin Toryila could be seen working in the Watchdog News offices in Abuja; and recently while on a field assignment in Benin.

Mr. Garrick said Mr. Toryila and his colleagues remained confined at the SSS field office in Benin as at Saturday evening .img_20160925_132512-resized-800

He said he has been receiving threat calls and invitation from anonymous persons asking him to report at the SSS office in Abuja or elsewhere.

The Army spokesperson, Mr. Sani, did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ requests for comments Saturday.

The Nigerian government has intensified clampdown on journalists in the past year. This has seen over a dozen reporters and bloggers arrested and brutalised.

A blogger, Jamil Mabai, is still in detention after he was arrested last Monday for a blog post criticising Katsina State government’s expenses.

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