President Muhammadu Buhari’s media team said on Monday that they were not consulted before a journalist was expellled from the presidential villa.
Bashir Abubakar, the Chief Security Officer, CSO, to President Muhammadu Buhari expelled the correspondent of Punch Newspapers, Lekan Adetayo, from the Aso Rock Presidential Villa.
Mr. Adetayo, who confirmed the expulsion to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday said it was because of a story about Mr. Buhari’s ill health published by his newspaper on Sunday.
The Punch reported that the reporter was summoned by Mr. Abubakar to explain two of his recent stories from the State House.
“He referred to the lead story of SUNDAY PUNCH of April 23, 2017, titled “Fresh anxiety in Aso Rock over Buhari’s poor health” and queried the motive behind it
“He also referred to our corespondent’s column, Aso Rock Lens, published on Saturday, April 22, 2017, and titled “Seat of power’s event centres going into extinction,” The Punch stated in a report Monday evening.
The News Agency of Nigeria said in a dispatch from the State House that Mr. Adetayo was grilled for 45 minutes.
But President Buhari’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, has said his office wasn’t consulted before the expulsion.
“We weren’t consulted in the media office by the CSO before he expelled The Punch reporter,” Mr. Adesina said in a reaction to news reports about Mr. Adetayo on Twitter. “President Buhari is committed to press freedom.”
An amicable solution would be found to The Punch reporter matter,” Mr. Adesina said in a follow-up tweet while emphasising that the president would not hinder press freedom.
Mr. Adetayo’s report, which his newspaper led with on Sunday, raised questions about a purported cover-up of the president’s health.
It said some State House staffers were allegedly growing increasingly sceptical about Mr. Buhari’s ill-health, especially as the president had been rarely sighted in public since he returned to the country from a 50-day medical vacation March 10.
The report suggested that the president’s fragile health might have prevented him from meeting some of his top officials, including ministers, adding that most of the duties in the presidency have been unloaded on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Mr. Adetayo’s expulsion came nearly two years after the State House, under President Goodluck Jonathan, withdrew the accreditation of a reporter for German radio, Deutsche Welle, for allegedly asking ’embarrassing question’ during a visit by Chadian president.
Ubale Musa has since been reinstated by the Buhari presidency.