Nigerians have criticised Garba Shehu, the spokesperson to President Muhammadu Buhari, over his claim that the current administration has not detained any journalist nor seized copies of newspapers since it assumed office.
He said “some international news outlets have mistakenly been describing Mr Sowore’s release as that of a journalist which is wrong.”
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Buhari administration has never, since coming into office in 2015, detained a journalist, seized copies of newspapers or shut down a medium of information.”
“Sowore called for a revolution to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nigeria. He did so on television, and from a privileged position as the owner of a widely read digital newspaper run from the United States of America.”
“He founded an organisation, Revolution Now, to launch, in their own words, “Days of Rage”, with the publicised purpose of fomenting mass civil unrest and the elected administration’s overthrow. No government will allow anybody to openly call for destabilization in the country and do nothing.”
“The government believes strictly in observing the rule of law but must safeguard public security and will not allow trouble makers to incite the public and cause a breakdown of law and order.”
On January 6, 2019, armed soldiers raided and sealed two offices of Daily Trust newspaper in Abuja and Maiduguri, Borno State.
The soldiers arrested the regional editor, Uthman Abubakar, and one of the paper’s reporters, Ibrahim Sawab, during the raid.
More than two dozens of armed soldiers in five pickup trucks sealed up the main office of the paper in the Utako District of Abuja, and seized computers and other items.
The army accused the newspaper of publishing its secrets. President Buhari is the Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces.
In 2017, police raided PREMIUM TIMES head office in Abuja, and arrested the newspaper’s publisher, Dapo Olorunyomi, alongside the paper’s judiciary correspondent, Evelyn Okakwu.
Plain-clothed officers conducted search at the office said they were acting on a complaint filed by the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai.
The arrests came days after PREMIUM TIMES turned down the army’s demand to retract news stories about the Nigerian Army and its operations.
Also, Samuel Ogundipe of PREMIUM TIMES was in August 2018 detained for about four days for refusing to disclose his source for a story. The story, also published by other news media, revealed a report by the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.
The report indicted sacked Director General of the State Security Service (SSS), Lawal Daura, for his role in the siege on the National Assembly.
Another journalist, Jones Abiri, was first detained for almost two years without trial. After much public outcry, he is now being tried for alleged links to outlawed groups
With these and other violations of journalists’ rights under the Buhari administration, many Nigerians accused Mr Shehu of spreading falsehood.
They expressed their views in the comment section under Mr Shehu’s Facebook post.
Eniola Akinkoutu, a journalist, said: “No journalist detained under Buhari? What of Samuel Ogundipe of Premium Times who was detained for 4 days? What of Jones Abiri? The raiding of DAILY TRUST? Just asking for clarification sir.”
Another commentator, Abimboye Micheal, said: “Lies. You lied sir and it’s a shame. Buhari’s govt detained journalists, raided Daily Trust. Don’t lie.”
“Must you write and talk? Don’t defend this lawlessness pls…,” Ishaq Ahmed said
Pajo Pajolisson: “I always read your posts to the end trying very hard to make sense out of the nonsense you write. Of course disappointment is often the end. You called him a former Presidential aspirant, condemning him as a journalist as against the claims of ‘international news outlets’. But you went ahead telling us he’s an owner of widely read digital news platform in the U.S.
Anyways, I would that it’s not the U.S senators’ letter that prompted his release if you tell Nigerians the exact reason. Was there a new court order that we don’t know? And why did you exempt Sambo Dasuki here?”
Fabiyi Olabanji wrote: “You guys succeeded in making Sowore an international figure whose case has become a major discourse in virtually all international media. Respect for rule of law is a major democratic ingredient which I believe this government enjoyed before coming to power. Power is transient and we should learn from history. Wondering how posterity will judge you @garbashehu and @femiadesina. Let’s do what us right at all time.”
Ofonife Sam said: “Shame on you, Buhari and this government for turning Nigeria into a banana republic and shamelessly presenting yourselves as the executive, judicial and legislative arm of government whereas these arms of government are independent. APC should know that Nigeria is bigger than them and the world is watching how they (APC ) desecrate on our democracy.”
Kaybee Buno said: “This guys are shameless. The more they try to cover their mistakes, the more mistakes they make.”