Detained OSIWA Nigeria director released; speaks on encounter with SSS

Udo Jude Ilo. [Photo credit: YouTube]

Udo Jude Ilo, the Nigeria office director for the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) has been released by the State Security Service, hours after he responded to a summon by the secret police.

Mr. Ilo confirmed the development to PREMIUM TIMES around 11:45 a.m. Friday.

His visit to the Abuja Command of the SSS in Asokoro District was exclusively reported by PREMIUM TIMES when his colleagues and associates could not communicate with him for unknown reasons.

His driver told PREMIUM TIMES he drove Mr Ilo to the secret police, but could not tell why he was being kept inside without updates about his condition.

His colleagues also raised the alarm, with some OSIWA officials telling PREMIUM TIMES the encounter came amidst a series of disturbing messages the organisation has had with Nigeria’s security intelligence bodies recently. But they said they weren’t sure if Mr Ilo was at the SSS over the exchanges.

Mr Ilo said the SSS’ questions centered around his organisation’s activities in Nigeria.

“They asked to know our partners, how we’re getting funding and who we are funding,” he told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone shortly after his release.

“They also indicated interest in profiling us, knowing what we do, who our partners are and how our grantees are using the funds received from.

“They took my fingerprints and other details and told me our interaction was a friendly one.”

It was not immediately clear why an intelligence organisation like the SSS would have to take an OSIWA official in for secret interrogation about the organisation’s activities and grantees which are readily available on its website.

OSIWA is an advocacy and grant-making organisation that pushes for open societies, accountability and inclusive democratic governance.

It has presence in 10 African countries and is part of the larger Open Society Foundations founded by business magnate, George Soros, which is working to “build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens.”

The organisation is doing extensive work in Nigeria to strengthen the capacity of the country’s civil society bodies to hold government, individuals and corporations accountable.

OSIWA has been widely praised for its achievements and transparency, all of which could be seen on its website.

Mr Ilo said the SSS operatives who interrogated him today told him the exercise was “a friendly” type that should not have attracted media attention.

The SSS could not be reached for comments as the agency has refused to name a spokesperson since President Muhammadu Buhari named Lawal Daura as its director-general in 2015.

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Samuel Ogundipe is a general assignment reporter at PREMIUM TIMES. At various times, he has covered the Presidency, National Assembly and Defence.

Twitter: @SamuelOgundipe

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