Armed military men have invaded Daily Trust regional office in Maiduguri, Borno State and arrested the Regional Editor, Uthman Abubakar and a reporter Ibrahim Sawab.
Apart from that, no fewer than three truck-loads of Military personnel were drafted to the medium’s Abuja head office, sealing the place and asking all the staff members to leave the premises, after which they reportedly ransacked the place.
They also requested to see the Political Editor, Hamza Idris, whose name has appeared in bylines of major exclusive and investigative reports.
Though it is not clear why the action was taken, but it was observed that the Daily Trust on Sunday published a strong editorial and news reports on security challenges in Northern Nigeria, blaming government for continued security breaches in the area.
Some of these stories include: ‘Military Prepares Massive Operation to Retake Baga, Others’; ‘Zamfara Bandits May Have Link with Boko Haram, -Defence Minister’; ‘Shettima Funds 20,000 Civilian JTF for six Years’, and ‘Troops Repel Boko Haram Attack in Damasak… Kill Many in Yobe’.
The Editorial titled ‘FG is Running Out of Excuses’ equally highlighted some of the humanitarian challenges in the North-East and the efforts of the military in tackling Boko Haram insurgency.
The Editorial pointed out that the Borno community leaders at an emergency meeting of security agencies summoned by Governor Kashim Shettima expressed fears that insurgents could push on from Baga, overrun Monguno and move on to Maiduguri.
The Editorial nonetheless acknowledged the successes of the military in repelling three attacks on Monguno with Air Force raids that halted the insurgents in their tracks and killed many terrorists. It also commended the effort of the military in launching a major offensive to retake the lost towns and bases.
The Editorial nevertheless questioned the absence of multinational force in the Lake Chad region, and commended the Niger Republic forces that last week killed 200 Boko Haram terrorists in their south eastern Diffa Region.
The paper claimed that “despite fortunes reportedly spent on armaments, it is clear also that our military lacks enough force and firepower to eliminate Boko Haram once and for all.
“This is very unfortunate. The country is at war and has been so for nearly 10 years now. Even though many successes were recorded, we expect the Federal Government to drop everything else and go for the best weapons, equipment and munitions wherever it can find them.
“Armoured helicopter gunships, mine-resistant APCs, drones, the latest machine guns and abundant munitions are some of the weapons needed to finish this war, and we believe that this country has the resources to acquire them from any available sources provided government rearranges its priorities. We must also do whatever it takes to bring our neighbours back into the war. Honestly, the Presidency is running out of excuses,” it concluded.
However, the newspaper says the whereabouts of arrested staff remained unknown after armed Nigerian security agents stormed the office and shut it down on Sunday.
The paper reported that: “Daily Trust’s regional editor, Uthman Abubakar and a reporter, Ibrahim Sawab were whisked away by a combined team of soldiers, DSS and Civil Defence officers, according to witnesses’ accounts.
“It is not clear why they took the action but it may be connected with the lead story of Daily Trust on Sunday on military operation in the North East.
“Daily Trust also learnt that the military shut the gate of the Maiduguri regional office, after arresting the two editorial staff on sight at the time of the raid.
“A witness also noted that the soldiers requested to see Daily Trust’s Political Editor, Hamza Idris, whose byline appeared on the story.”
The chairman and secretary of the Borno state correspondents’ chapel, Haruna Dauda and Timothy Olanrewaju, in a statement, called on journalists to be calm as they were “already on top of the matter, reaching out to the military command in Maiduguri.”
The spokesperson for the Army, Sani Usman, did not answer or return calls.
The Editor in Chief of Daily Trust, Mannir Dan Ali, told PREMIUM TIMES the issue was being resolved.
He said the military was merely using the paper’s current edition as an excuse to clampdown on the newspaper, but that it was clear authorities were unhappy with Daily Trust’s coverage of the recent losses to Boko Haram.
“Government officials are trying to resolve the matter,” he said.
Mr Dan Ali also said “the military are not happy with our reporting of the Baga attacks by Boko Haram and are just using today’s story as an excuse to clampdown on the newspaper”.