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‘Soldiers blindfolded, tortured me in Abuja cell,’ FirstNews Editor, Olatunji narrates kidnap ordeal



Segun Olatunji, the Editor of FirstNews Online Newspaper, who regained his freedom on Thursday after being in the custody of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) after 12 days, has recounted his ordeal while in detention.

Olatunji who was abducted by gunmen from his Lagos home on March 15, only regained his freedom following public outcry by concerned Nigerians as well as his professional colleagues in the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Nigerian wing of the International Press Institute (IPI Nigeria), who wrote petitions to President Bola Tinubu demanding Olatunji’s release.

Olatunji who opened up on his ordeal at a press conference organised by the leaderships of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), NUJ and the IPI in Abuja, said his abductors who stormed his house in a Gestapo fashion, blindfolded and flew him from Lagos to Abuja where he was moved to a cell.

He narrated that while he was in the cell, he was kept in handcuffs and leg chains and tortured for three days.

“Someone came claiming to be from the military. He identified himself as Colonel Lawal. Immediately, he seized my phones. I went to the room to dress up. By the time I got downstairs, I saw soldiers inside the compound taking positions,” Olatunji said.

“Outside the gate, I saw about three vehicles with Air Force personnel, Army, Defence Intelligence Agency, others, all fully armed.

“I was handcuffed and taken straight to the office of the National Air Defence Corps, where we waited for three hours. I did not know that they were waiting for an aircraft to pick me to Abuja.

“When the aircraft landed, I was blindfolded and moved to the aircraft and we landed in Abuja shortly. I was leg-cuffed also. They removed my clothes and I was left with my boxers. I was taken to Cell 9.

“There I was left in leg chains and handcuffs. And at a point, one of the officers came and tightened the right leg and the right hand and I was there groaning in pain. And they did not loosen it until about two or three days after.

“Up till now, I could still feel the pains in my hands and legs.”

The journalist stated that those behind his ordeal were close to the government due to the nature of questions they asked him.

READ ALSO:Family of journalist allegedly kidnapped by military sends SOS to Tinubu, plans protests

“They were asking me questions about certain stories that FirstNews had carried. They first told me that I was one of those abusing the Chief of Defence Intelligence (Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Undiandeye). They did not say much about that,” Olatunji said.

He added that they also asked him about a story his platform had published about the Chief of Staff to President Bola Tinubu, Femi Gbajabiamila, which he said they described as a “major thing”.

“That is why I told some people earlier that those behind my arrest are people in the corridors of power, who are not happy with what FirstNews is doing and are bent on taking their own pound of flesh,” he added.

Also speaking at the press parley, NGE Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, said the guild got intelligence information that Olatunji would have been secretly killed but for the sustained pressure from the media.

“We interacted with the Presidency, the Nigeria Police Force (Lagos and Abuja), the Nigerian Army, the Defence Intelligence Agency, the Ministry of Interior, the Defence headquarters, the Office of the National Security Adviser, the Ministry of Information and National Orientation, and the State Security Services. Other security agencies were also contacted.

“But all the efforts failed until last night. The military claimed the journalist was not in their custody. They lied to us and top government officials whose interventions we sought. The DIA’s action makes us wonder about its real intention. Our suspicion is that they planned to secretly eliminate Mr Olatunji so that members of the public could attribute his disappearance to unknown gunmen. But we are glad they failed.

“However, on Monday, IPI Nigeria was able to determine (without doubt) that the journalist was being detained and tortured by the Defence Intelligence Agency in Abuja. The IPI then informed the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Christopher Musa and the Chief of Defence Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Undiandeye, of its finding and asked them to release our colleague immediately.

“We also provided that information to top government officials who also reached out to Generals Musa and Undiandeye. Again, they lied that the journalist was not in their custody. Yet our sources were telling us we needed to act fast to save our colleague from being killed.

“More so, the DIA’s action is a direct attack on press freedom. One of the core missions of the free press is to serve as a watchdog on power. The press, as we all know, is the connection between the people and the government. If the press is not allowed to carry out its social and constitutional responsibilities but instead obligated to power, it simply serves as an extension of power.

“Without freedom of the press, our democracy is endangered. In the case of corruption, a free press is critical to exposing abuses of power. For sure, the media is not above the law, but in a democracy, the only way to determine wrong or right is through the legal process.

“This is not the end of this matter. The Nigerian media community shall consult further in the next few days on the actions to take against the CDS, the CDI, and the military regarding this matter.”

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