Reporters Without Borders today condemned raids on two newspapers by the State Security Service, a domestic intelligence agency, on 9 January in the Nigerian capital of Abuja. The two newspapers targeted were Leadership, a daily, and The Abuja Inquirer, a weekly.
“It seems the election campaign will be a trying time for Nigeria’s journalists, who are repeatedly the targets of SSS savagery,” the press freedom organisation said. “President Olusegun Obasanjo’s declarations of good intentions towards the press are clearly just for effect if domestic intelligence services can carry out raids on newspapers that make the mistake of displeasing the government.”
A dozen SSS agents stormed Leadership’s offices on the morning of 9 January and took away general manager Abraham Nda-Isaiah, editor Bashir Bello Akko and journalist Abdulazeez Sanni. They had been seeking another journalist, Danladi Ndayebo, and a copy of an article published three days earlier about political manoeuvring within the ruling party that lead to Sheru Musa Yar’Adua’s nomination as its candidate in the coming presidential election.
The SSS agents returned to the newspaper with Nda-Isaiah at 2:30 p.m., placed seals on its entrance, confiscated the mobile phones of all the staff present and carried out a search. After finding what they wanted, they withdrew from the ransacked premises at about 3:15 p.m., again taking Nda-Isaiah with them.
The three detained journalists were finally released in the middle of the night, but were forced to reveal Ndayebo’s location. Ndayebo was arrested the next day and was held for 10 hours, in the course of which he was forced to reveal the sources for his story.
About 15 SSS agents carried out a similar raid the same day on The Abuja Inquirer, searching its offices for three hours and arresting publisher Dan Akpovwa and editor Sonde Abbah because of an in-depth article in the 8-14 January issue headlined “Obasanjo-Atiku Face-Off: Coup Fear Grips Nigeria.” When they left, they took with them 81 CDs, a computer, a list of all the newspaper’s staff, 18 copies of the latest issue and seven copies of previous issues.
Nigeria’s SSS is on the Reporters Without Borders list of the world’s worst press freedom predators.