The Nigerian Army on Monday explained why its operatives invaded the offices of Daily Trust Newspapers in Maiduguri and Abuja on Sunday.
According to Brig. Gen. Sani Usman, the Army spokesman, the invasion of the newspaper was to invite them over a story published on Sunday which “divulged classified military information, thus undermining national security.”
“Soldiers of the Nigerian Army along with elements of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies were indeed at Abuja and Maiduguri offices of the publishing company to invite the staff of the company over its lead story on Sunday Trust publication,” the army spokesman said.
He further accused the newspaper of revealing classified details of the military operations against Boko Haram terrorists.
“The disclosure of classified security information amounts to a breach of national security and run contrary to Sections 1 and 2 of the Official Secrets Act,” he said.
He added that the story gave the terrorists notice of the Nigerian Army plans, which will consequently put them on alert against the military.
“We would like to state that the invitation of those responsible for divulging military plans was done with the best of intention in order to make them realise the import of such acts to our national security,” he said.
“We therefore advice all, particularly journalists, not to worry but engage in their responsive reportage and to be professional as the Nigerian Army has no intention of muzzling the press or jeopardising press freedom.
“We however, wish to enjoin further that they should eschew jeopardizing national security in their reportage. We would not tolerate situation where a publication would consistently side with terrorists and undermine our national institutions.”
“We would like to further assure that the invitation is for further investigation and if need be, all those culpable of jeopardising operations security will be prosecuted by the relevant law enforcement agency,” he noted.
Here’s how Daily Trust responded to Nigerian Army siege
Following the invasion of its offices and the arrest of its staffs, the CEO and Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper, Mannir Dan Ali, issued a statement.
Read the statement below;
Military invades Daily Trust, arrests journalists,Impound computers
For 4 Hours on Sunday, January 6th 2019, Armed Soldiers who came in 5 vehicles occupied the head office of Media Trust Limited, publishers of the Daily Trust titles sending away journalists and other staff.
Before the siege was called off at about 9.30 pm, the soldiers has ransacked the newsroom and carted away dozens of computers and effectively strangulated the production of the Monday edition of the paper.
Earlier in the day at about 4 pm, another detachment of soldiers and plain cloth security officials went to the Maiduguri regional office of the company and conducted a search at the end of which they took away the Regional Bureau Chief, Uthman Abubakar and a reporter, Ibrahim Sawab. Neither the company nor the families of the two reporters have heard from them since.
A production staff who was taken away from the Abuja headoffice alongside our computers was released after a period of detention at the Mogadishu barracks in Abuja.
In Lagos, military men in 7 vehicles arrived our offices at Textile Labour House in Agidingbi at about 9 pm and remain there until the time of issuing this statement.
We have not been told of the reason for the military operation against this newspaper but suspect it may have to do with the lead story of the Daily Trust on Sunday that dwelt on the military’s effort to retake some towns recently reported to have been lost to insurgents.
Another clue is that during the invasion of our premises both in Maiduguri and in Abuja, the military men were asking for the reporters who wrote the story.
Media Trust Limited condemns this unlawful act and calls on the military authorities to release the two reporters arrested in Maiduguri and return the dozens of computers that were taken from our newsroom.
We also like to thank our colleagues in the media and all others who have been calling and supporting us in our hour of need.
We also appreciate the efforts of some government officials who insist that there is a better way of handling relations with the media.
UK, former VP Atiku Abubakar, others vehemently condemned the invasion of Daily Trust
The United Kingdom has vehemently condemned the invasion of Daily Trust offices by the operatives of the Nigerian Army.
The UK described the action as rash, adding that free press which is able to challenge and comment on the actions of the nation was a necessary cornerstone and hallmark of democracy around the world, noting that this freedom is an inviolable and absolute right.
Ms. Debbie Palmer, the Head of the UK Department for International Development in Nigeria, in her reaction said;
“This is a concerning development for Nigeria, and I am disappointed that such rash action was taken by the authorities.”
According to Mr. David Smith, the Communication Officer of the UK Department for International Development in Nigeria, the military ought to engage in constructive dialogue with stakeholders on how best to work together.
“Whilst we welcome the swift and decisive action from the Federal Government in resolving this incident, the existence of the raid alone remains a concerning development in Nigeria.
“The United Kingdom believes that freedom of the press and freedom of speech are fundamental democratic principles, and their right is absolute and inviolable.
“A free press is the hallmark of a civilised and democratic nation, and efforts to subvert or silence such organisations are the colours of tyranny and authoritarianism.
“Rather than resorting to rash tactics of raids and arrests, a strong foundation of dialogue and trust will resolve issues before they create friction.”
The UK further noted that it would continue to monitor the situation closely, particularly as the 2019 general election drew closer.
NPAN condemns invasion
The Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) in its reaction described the invasion as shocking and illegal.
“The weekend siege to the Daily Trust newspaper premises was clearly unconstitutional, without due process and an act of self-help.
“Additionally, it showed a poor appreciation of the advancement in information dissemination in the global village where news is disseminated at the touch of a keyboard and not necessarily in a fixed address. This is 2019 and those who gave the vexatious order ought to know better.
“We have gone too far in search of law and order regime than to countenance such display of raw power and emotion over due process,” Feyi Smith, NPAN Executive Secretary, said.
Atiku speaks on Daily Trust invasion
The Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, said that he was alarmed over the military action and the arrest of the journalists.
In a statement released by his media aide, Mr. Paul Ibe, Atiku noted that the “invasion is a travesty, the like of which the nation had not seen since the days of military rule.”
“The particular use of heavily armed soldiers also shows the abuse of scarce resources which have exacerbated the insecurity currently plaguing Nigeria.
“Our soldiers should not be used to target law-abiding citizens. A dutiful and prudent commander-in-chief should rather deploy them to either the North-East or the Zamfara-Katsina axis, especially after the governors of both states held their New Year’s Day conferences bemoaning the breakdown of law and order in their respective states.”
“If the government has issues with the Media Trust Limited, it should bring charges against it in a court of competent jurisdiction or the Nigeria Press Council, the statutory body that governs ethical standards in the Nigerian press.”