Why we detained Chido Onumah — SSS

A Nigerian activist, Chido Onumah. [PHOTO CREDIT: Sahara Reporters]
A Nigerian activist, Chido Onumah. [PHOTO CREDIT: Sahara Reporters]

The State Security Service (SSS) has said it did not arrest the Nigerian activist, Chido Onumah, but only “engaged him in interaction” over an inscription on his shirt.

Mr Onumah was held on Sunday evening by SSS agents after at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, as he arrived from Spain.

He was released about five hours later amidst widespread condemnations.

Mr Onumah told PREMIUM TIMES he was arrested because he wore a shirt with the inscription, “We Are All Biafrans”.

“I was arrested for wearing the T-shirt because the SSS said it is capable of causing disaffection in the country,” he said.

”They said some people had issues and had contacted them (SSS) whether I was a part of a group that was planning against the country.”

The inscription is the title of a book Mr Onumah wrote about Nigeria.

The book, a collection of essays by the journalist, focused on the need to restructure Nigeria in order to be able to build a united country.

In its reaction Monday morning, the SSS said what the agency did was not an arrest.

A statement by its spokesperson, Peter Afunnaya, said, “The DSS wishes to make clarifications regarding media reports that Dr Chido Onumah was arrested by the Service. To set the records right, Onumah was never arrested by the Service. He was rather engaged in an interaction during which an act of his capable of undermining public order and national security was explained to him.

“On his arrival at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on 29th September, 2019, it was discovered that Onumah wore a T-shirt with WE ARE ALL BIAFRANS inscription on it. With credible intelligence that he might be a subject of mob attack if allowed to go into town in same cloth, the Service invited him and drew his attention to the implications of his probable (un)intended action.

“It was strongly believed that an attack on Onumah would have sparked ethno-religious reprisals with dire consequences for law and order and public safety in the country. He understood the issues and pledged not to engage in activities that may cause disaffection in Abuja and the country at large. He subsequently removed the cloth with the inciting symbols and inscriptions and agreed not to use it.

The statement said the interaction with Mr Onumah was friendly, and that the activist appreciated the courtesy extended to him.

“The Service arranged for him to go back to his accommodation in town,” the SSS added.

“It is hoped that this clarification has dispelled the erroneous claims and reportage that he was arrested. The Service acted within the confines of its mandate and only carried out its routine security duty that could have been discharged by a similar agency in any part of the world. It is not out of place for concerned security agencies to have sought clarification from a traveller concerning a subject of security interest.”

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