SSS officers ‘brutalise journalists at #FreeSowore protest’

Oludare Richards

Photos have emerged of Nigerian journalists brutalised by armed officers of the State Security Service during a protest in Abuja on Tuesday.

The journalists were covering a demonstration demanding the release Omoyele Sowore of Sahara Reporters by the SSS, which has kept Mr Sowore despite a court-ordered bail.

Mr Sowore is facing charges of treason, money laundering and defamation of President Muhammadu Buhari has been in detention since August 5 when he was arrested.

A federal judge signed a warrant for his release on November 6 after he met stringent bail conditions. But the SSS, Nigeria’s domestic intelligence outfit that brought the charges, has continued to flout the court order, even after promising to honour it.

On Tuesday morning, activists from several pro-democracy groups took part in a demonstration outside the SSS headquarters in Abuja, and journalists were there to report it.

Shortly after the protest began, witnesses said heavily armed SSS operatives arrived in lorries to violently disperse the crowd, charging at both protesters, journalists and even passersby with rods, tear gas and even live ammunition.

At least three media houses said their journalists were amongst those brutalised when the agents unleashed terror on the protesters. Arise Television, The Guardian and Galaxy Television all confirmed attacks on their journalists Tuesday afternoon.

Photos of a brutalised Oludare Richards of The Guardian have made social media rounds in particular. The Guardian said Mr Richards sustained “a nasty head wound and several bruises on his arm.”

Stanley Ugochukwu of Arise TV was also attacked and his camera confiscated by SSS operatives, according to the station’s sister outlet, ThisDay.

Details of the attacks on journalists came shortly after Yemi Adamolekun, an activist who runs Enough Is Enough Nigeria, narrated how she was attacked and her telephone smashed while filming the assault on the journalists.

“If I thought things were bad, I have a new respect for how bad they have gotten,” Ms Adamolekun said in an email Tuesday afternoon.

Sola Olubanjo, a social commentator, described the attacks as “barbaric and unjustified.”

“This is a reminder that Nigerian security agents are not ready to conduct themselves in a manner acceptable in a modern world,” Mr Olubanjo said Tuesday evening. “You can even say they are not interested in civilisation.”

It is not uncommon for Nigerian security personnel to violently disrupt civilian protests, and oftentimes journalists are caught in the crossfire.

A journalist was killed after police responded violently to a Shiite protest earlier this year.

A spokesperson for the SSS, Peter Afunanya, did not return PREMIUM TIMES’ messages seeking comments about the allegations that operatives unleashed mayhem on journalists who covered today’s protests.

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