Security Service removes Nigerian Journalists from watchlist after 38 years

The International Press Institute(IPI) has confirmed the removal of a Nigerian journalist, Lanre Arogunde from a watchlist of the State Security Service (SSS) after 38 years.

Penpushing reports that,  Secretary of the Nigeria Chapter of the Institute, Ahmed Shekarau made this known in a statement as affirmed by the Director General of the Service, Yusuf Magaji Bichi, on Wednesday when a delegation visited the service in Abuja, as part of the organisation’s ongoing high-level engagements on the safety of journalists and press freedom in Nigeria

The veteran journalist, Arogundade, Director of the Lagos-based International Press Centre (IPC), it is recalled was on February 10 intercepted and detained by officers of the State Security Service(SSS) upon his arrival at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, from Banjul, The Gambia, where he went to train journalists on conflict reporting.

Penpushing further reports that, the Director General of the Service speaking on the circumstances leading to the interception of Arogundade on his arrival in Lagos, explained that  the Service acted based on a decades-long watchlist, which demanded that the journalist should be quizzed whenever he returned from a foreign country.

Penpushing also reports that Bichi added that  the journalist was put on the list during his days as the President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS),  between 1984 and 1985 while he was student at the Obafemi Awolowo University under the military administration of   Muhammadu Buhari(rtd), adding that after  Arogundade was initially removed, there arose another case of mistaken identity triggered by a request by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).

“We don’t intercept people willfully at airports. We do so based on requests from other government agencies who may have issues with the persons affected”, Bichi stated

Penpushing reports that the security operatives boss spoke on  Arogundade’s case after the International Press Institute (IPI) Nigeria delegation condemned the journalist’s treatment by the secret service while also raising other cases of harassment of media professionals by the agency.

The Director General responding to the other issues about violation of the rights of journalists, which were raised by the International Press Institute (IPI) delegation,  emphasised the need for close collaboration between the media and the Service, stressing that this was necessary to address many of the misconceptions

Penpushing further reports that  the President of International Press Institute ,(IPI) Nigeria, Musikilu Mojeed, earlier in his remarks lamented the rising incidents of violation of the rights of journalists while performing their constitutional duties of upholding the people’s right to know and holding governments, individuals and corporations accountable.

The President citing the 2021 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders, lamented the ranking of Nigeria as one of West Africa’s most dangerous and difficult countries for journalists, who he said are often spied on, attacked, arbitrarily arrested or even killed.

Penpushing also reports that Mojeed reiterated the commitment of International Press Institute (IPI) Nigeria in ensuring credible and independent journalism, media freedom, freedom of speech and the free flow of news and information, saying,

“We will always stand firm and resist any measure or action that threatens these matters and principles for which we stand. As we all know, Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution is clear in compelling the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media to, at all time, be free to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people,” he said

Penpushing reports that he said all oppressive and repressive policies and actions directed at the media must be resisted so as not to allow authoritarianism, poor governance and corruption to thrive in Nigeria.

The President appealed to the Director General  to educate and prevail on officers and men of the Service all over the country to desist from harassment of journalists, and that they should also not allow themselves to be used by politicians, public office holders and other individuals who happen to be on the wrong side of media reporting.

“Such (aggrieved) individuals should be advised to seek redress in court instead of coming to the SSS (to complain)”, the President emphasized.

Penpushing also reports that, Mojeed informed the host that International Press Institute (IPI) Nigeria would henceforth demand accountability in any case of harassment of journalists in the country.

“For a start, we are opening a black book to document all security personnel and other individuals involved in the harassment of journalists in Nigeria. The records so gathered will be shared periodically with embassies, and all relevant international and human rights groups across the world. We will use the records for intense advocacy with a view to getting perpetrators to be held accountable one way or another”, he declared

Penpushing reports that those in the International Press Institute (IPI) Nigeria delegation to the State Security Service (SSS) headquarters included its Secretary, Ahmed I. Shekarau; the Director, Digital Media, Voice of Nigeria (VON), Hajia Sani; the General Manager/CEO of Trust TV, Ibrahim Shehu; a Director with Ambience Blue Communication, Tunde Ipinmisho; Deputy Editor, 21st Century Chronicle, Catherine Agbo; and Acting  Editor, Peoples Daily, Sunday Ode.

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