Despite video and photo evidence of its officers’ brutality against protesters and journalists on Tuesday, the State Security Service has claimed it conducted itself as a “professional and responsible organisation.”
Peter Afunanya, a spokesperson for the SSS, said in an email Wednesday afternoon that operatives initially allowed the protesters to gather, but intervened when attempts were made to breach its facility.
“As a normal global security practice, the operatives stood in defence of their facility when some group of persons made unruly attempts to forcefully break into the place and effect the release of Omoyele Sowore,” the SSS claimed.
“Despite serial and unwarranted provocations, the Service, as a professional and responsible organisation, did not shoot at the so-called protesters,” it added.
But pictures and videos that have circulated online since the protest was dispersed on Tuesday afternoon disproved the SSS’ claim as false. Its officers could be seen shooting and firing tear gas against the crowd.
Even though no one was killed or wounded by gunshots, the operatives inflicted bruises on some of the protesters and journalists.
In particular, Oludare Richards of The Guardian sustained injuries to his head and arm after being shoved by SSS operatives while he was covering the protest to free Mr Sowore from illegal custody. A reporter with Arise TV in Abuja was also attacked and his camera smashed.
Yemi Adamolekun, the director of a public interest think-tank Enough Is Enough, was attacked while she was filming the reporters and other protesters who were being attacked by SSS operatives. Her phone was smashed during the incident. Ms Adamolekun took part in the protest, which also had political activist Deji Adeyanju as its lead campaigner.
Pictures and videos from the attack have been trending on social media since Tuesday afternoon. The multimedia evidence also showed that the protesters did not attempt to break into the SSS. They were gathered on a road adjacent to the SSS office, giving a barricade into the facility space of over 50 metres.
Nigerians also held a protest outside the Lagos field offices of the SSS in Shangisha, but the event did not turn violent as it did in Abuja.
The demonstrations followed SSS’ refusal to obey a federal court order for the immediate release of Mr Sowore, the Sahara Reporters’ publisher who has been held on charges of treason and defamation since August 5. Mr Sowore met stringent bail terms on November 6, but he has remained in custody amidst a series of highly controversial excuses from the SSS.