The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Borno Council has condemned the arrest of Daily Trust reporter Olatunji Omirin by armed soldiers.
Omirin, who was arrested on Thursday, by operatives of the Nigerian Army in Maiduguri has been released, the Executive Director/Editor-in-Chief of the paper, Malam Naziru Mikailu, confirmed last night.
“Yes, Omirin is back at home with his family and he is hale and hearty,” Mikailu said.
“He was questioned by the military over a story he authored concerning activities of the Boko Haram insurgents,” he said.
Omirin who joined the Daily Trust in 2011 and reporting from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, was reportedly whisked away to the Nigerian Army 7 Division Maimalari Cantonment headquarters. The soldiers had earlier stormed the Daily Trust Regional Office twice before invading the NUJ secretariat to arrest the journalist.
Witnesses at the Borno State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists Press Centre, where the reporter was arrested, said he was picked around 4:40pm when a uniform soldier, armed with a rifle and two others in mufti. The soldiers reportedly invaded the press centre and instantly handcuffed the reporter while he was eating, without any explanation.
A source at the NUJ said the soldiers had been engaging Omirin on the phone since last week claiming they wanted to meet him for a change of name advert placement.
“One of the soldiers in mufti entered the press centre while others were inside the army vehicle. He asked for Tunji and when Tunji was asked of having knowledge of his guests and how far he had gone with the advert, he said it has been published. He was speaking on phone at the same time with some people and we then heard him shouting, calling the name of one the journalists at the press centre that was inside in the NUJ cchairman’s office. The reporter came out of the office and met the soldiers putting handcuff on Tunji and the two other soldiers in mufti alighted from the vehicle along with another soldier in uniform,” the source said.
A statement issued by Bulama Talba, the Chairman of Nigerian Union of Journalists NUJ Borno Council, described the move by the military as “detrimental to the operation of free democracy and a trample on the dignity of professional journalists”. Read the statement below.
“The Nigeria Union of Journalists NUJ Borno Council hereby expresses bitterness of all our members over the manner personnel of the Nigeria Army came, arrested with handcuffs Olatunji Omirin reporter with Daily trust newspaper at the Press center Maiduguri Thursday afternoon 30 January, 2020 and took him to Maimalari barracks,” the statement reads.
“Although he has been released evening of the same day, the Union sees this move by the military as detrimental to the operation of free democracy and a trample on the dignity of professional journalists which unfortunately is repeating itself after similar incident occurred same time last year.
We the members of the Pen profession in Borno State have been and will continue to live up to our responsibilities of informing the government and citizens on happenings as a way of promoting the safety of all and improve living conditions at all times.
The Union members from various mediums have been, with all sense of responsibility, carrying out duties to put issues in the right perspectives for proper agenda setting by government and the military and mobilizing the citizenry to support programmes and operations that follow, which Olatunji Omirin has been doing remarkably well.
NUJ feels it is quite unfortunate that this is happening now when we all need to be on the same page to move our country from armed conflict to peaceful resolutions of disputes for development to thrive instead of playing into the wishes of elements that promote discord in the nation.
We can do better by calling concerned media organizations, NUJ as well as other stakeholders for regular interactions on finding a common ground on the way forward beyond this modus operandi.”