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Armed soldiers invade Daily Trust, shut down Abuja, Lagos, Borno offices

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Armed soldiers invade Daily Trust, shut Abuja, Lagos, Borno offices

Heavily armed soldiers yesterday invaded and shut down the corporate headquarters of Daily Trust Newspapers located in the Jabi District of Abuja.


The soldiers, who arrived the premises of the media organisation in three trucks, cordoned off the whole building and dismissed the Mobile Police Officers who were guarding the place.

An eyewitness said the soldiers arrived at 6:15p.m. forced the gates open and ordered everyone to move to the ground floor while some of the soldiers went upstairs to ransack the offices.
They raided the newsroom, seized laptops and other gadgets used in the process of news production.


The motive for the raid was not clear as at press time but New Telegraphgathered that it may not be unconnected with the lead story published by Daily Trust yesterday which said that Nigeria Army was at the verge of launching a major military operation to reclaim Baga and other towns in the North-East currently under the occupation of Boko Haram.

New Telegraph learnt that the soldiers were angered by the front-page lead story and an editorial comment on the military engagements in the North-East, which they perceived to have put the military in a weak position in the counter- insurgency operations.
The Nigeria Armed Forces had, for over two and half years, claimed that they had technically defeated Boko Haram and that the terrorist group no longer had capacity to hold on to any inch of the Nigerian territory.

An eyewitness said the soldiers, who stormed the media house yesterday, ordered all reporters to step out of the building ostensibly for identification. The soldiers were said to have specifically requested to see Daily Trust’sPolitical Editor, Hamza Idris, whose byline appeared on the “offensive” story.
The newspaper has been doing a series of stories on the military operations in the North-East region of the country. A number of the stories featured graphic details of the travails of the troops at the frontlines.

The raid on the newspaper’s head office in Abuja was preceded by a similar raid on its regional offices in Lagos and Maiduguri, Borno State.

The armed soldiers reportedly arrested its North-East Bureau Chief, Mallam Uthman Abubakar and a reporter, Ibrahim Sawab during the raid in Maiduguri.
According to eyewitness, the duo was whisked away by a combined team of soldiers, DSS and Civil Defence officers.
Similarly, there was also a siege to the Lagos Office of the newspaper. New Telegraph saw five Toyota Hilux vans belonging to OP MESA and RSS with about 20 armed soldiers  and policemen stationed in front of the Lagos Office on ACME road, Agidingbi, Ikeja as at 9:45p.m.
An official of the Media Trust, who did not want his name in print, confirmed the arrest.


The official said the armed soldiers came about 4:30p.m. and arrested Abubakar and Sawab in Maiduguri.
He said: “The arrest is not unconnected with our lead story of today’s Sunday Trust. They have also invaded and closed our Kaduna and Abuja offices. This is unfortunate. We are going into dictatorship like the military era.”
It was learnt that the soldiers shut the gate of the Maiduguri regional office, after arresting the two editorial staff on sight at the time of the raid.

A human rights activist, Dr. Ali Ibrahim, said it was unfortunate that the incident was coming at the time the nation needed the cooperation of the military, the media and the general public.

He said: “What happened today (yesterday) will spoil the already improving civil, military relations and cordial relationship between the military and media industry. The military should not allow this to affect the counter-insurgency war in the North-East.”

As at 7:59p.m., some of the workers who were detained by the soldiers at the Daily Trust headquarters, Abuja were let off the hook, but the premises remained under military siege as at press time.

Spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Brig-Gen. Sani Usman could not be reached for comments on the reason for the raid as he neither picked calls nor responded to text messages sent to his mobile phone.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has condemned the military siege on Daily Trust, arrest of its staff and closure of its headquarters in Abuja and Maiduguri and Lagos offices.

President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, in a statement yesterday in Abuja, described the action of the military as “bizarre and violation of press freedom.” Wabba said that such actions were not only anti-democratic, but that the military does not need to take on more enemies, especially from the media, given the security situation in the country.
The statement read thus: “We call for immediate release of Daily Trust staff and re-opening of their offices. We wish to condemn the arrest of the Borno State Editor of Daily and other staff and closure of the state offices by the military.

“No explanation is good enough for this extreme action. It is bizarre and represents repression and violation of press freedom.
“We are in a democracy and the media constitutes one of the strong institutions in our democracy.

“The Daily Trust Group represents some of the best traditions in journalism practice. They are neither associated with sensationalism nor some of the darker side of journalism. The arrest of its personnel and shutdown of its office portend evil and represent a throwback to the dark days of the military.
“If the military authorities have issues with the newspaper, even if those issues pertain to national security, there are established channels for dealing with them.




“Accordingly, we urge the military to order the immediate release of the detained staff and reopening of the newspaper offices. In these frighteningly difficult times, the military needs more friends than self-made enemies.”

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