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SSS arrests AIT reporter over Waku’s interview

Posted by By Femi Babafemi, Lagos and Godwin Tsa, Abuja on 2006/06/15 | Views: 644 |

SSS arrests AIT reporter over Waku’s interview


The Abuja office of the Africa Independent Television (AIT) again came under the siege of the State Security Services (SSS) Wednesday when about 12 operatives stormed the media outfit and whisked away one of its reporters, Gbenga Aruleba.

• My life in danger –Waku

The Abuja office of the Africa Independent Television (AIT) again came under the siege of the State Security Services (SSS) Wednesday when about 12 operatives stormed the media outfit and whisked away one of its reporters, Gbenga Aruleba.

Aruleba’s arrest, according to sources, may not be unconnected with an interview granted outspoken senator, Joseph Waku on an AIT live programme tagged ‘Focus Nigeria’ during which Waku made unsavoury comments on the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The SSS action is coming even as the controversial senator who represented Benue State at the National Assembly between 1999 and 2003 raised alarm that his life is being threatened by security agents.

Aruleba was said to have been arrested by a team of 12 SSS operatives who stormed the media outfit at about 8am in two jeeps, demanding for the tape of Tuesday’s edition of the programme.
Just about five weeks ago, security agents had stormed the station, searched its studios, before taking with them some tapes including a documentary on the botched third term bid of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Waku who spoke with Daily Sun on phone said the threat to his life may not be unconnected with his harsh comments on the administration of President Obasanjo on the AIT live programme anchored by Aruleba.

According to him, “I have been receiving several threat calls especially from people who claimed they are SSS agents since I featured on the AIT programme where Aruleba engaged me for over one and a half hours.

“Concerned people have also been calling me since then to go into hiding, but I want to say that I am too tall to go into hiding because this is my country. They can only kill my body, they can’t kill my soul.”

Already, condemnation has trailed the arrest of the AIT reporter.
A joint statement signed by Richard Akinola of Centre for Free Speech and Sina Loremikan of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) said, “We view this fresh onslaught as an affront not only on the freedom of the press but to democracy itself.

“We condemn without any reservation, this dictatorial assault on the independent media. This portends grave danger to the transition programme towards the 2007 election and these are signs that President Obasanjo still has a hidden agenda in the last lap of his government to elongate his stay through some other dubious unconstitutional means, part of which is to unleash the security apparatus against his perceived enemies.”

In the same vein, the Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) in a statement by its publicity secretary, Lai Mohammed said, “ a government which shows such zero tolerance for the freedom of speech and the rule of law is an embarrassment to all Nigerians. The PDP led government should learn from history that no government anywhere in the world relying solely on brute force and the powers of coercion has ever taken on the media and the civil society in any battle and won, and this current struggle for the enthronement of real democracy in Nigeria will not be an exception.”

Also, a faction of the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere in a statement by its publicity secretary, Yinka Odumakin condemned the invasion of AIT premises and demanded for the immediate release of Aruleba.

Similarly, the Nigerian Bar Association condemned the arrest and detention of the AIT reporter, describing it as an attempt to gag the press under a democratic setting.
Chairman of the Abuja Chapter of the NBA, Chief Jude Okeke who spoke on the development called for the immediate and unconditional release of the AIT staff as the action by the SSS is illegal and a violation of the constitutional rights of the Press and freedom of expression.

The NBA noted that, “it is our belief that if anybody feels aggrieved by what was aired by any electronic or print media, the wise option is to seek for a retraction by way of correction in respect of the particular news item.

“But to use the instrument of office and state apparatus to arrest and detain is condemnable. It is not right for our democracy, it reminds us of the dark days of the military.”

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Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

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Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown