Bayelsa Journalist recounts ordeal in hands of DSS

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A journalist and publisher of Weekly Source, a local tabloid based in Bayelsa State, Mr. Jones Abiri, on Tuesday returned to Yenagoa, the state capital, and recounted his ordeal in the hands of the Department for State Services.

Abiri, who was received at the Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists by journalists and leaders of the Civil Liberties Organisation, said he was arrested in his office, detained for seven days in DSS cell in Yenagoa and later blindfolded and flown to Abuja.

He said he was kept incommunicado in an underground DSS cell in Abuja and denied access to medical treatment for about two years.

Abiri, who was also received by his wife and family members, said the hope that God would grant him freedom someday kept him alive throughout the period of his detention.

“Precisely, l was arrested on July 21, 2016 in my office at about 3:23 pm. About 12 armed men came to my office and they came with a document, a search warrant that my office was under investigation.

“When l perused the search warrant, l saw it was signed by one Magistrate Lucky. I allowed them and they searched my office. At the end of the search, they found nothing. They handcuffed me, took my phones, laptops and other things. Things unconnected to my arrest were also taken. All my pay slips, banking information were taken.

“They whisked me away to the state command. I gave my statement and after spending seven days in Yenagoa, they took me to Abuja. Initially, l didn’t know where l was going. My eyes were blindfolded. Since that time, l have not been given the grace and the opportunity to see my wife, my children, sisters, brothers and friends.

“My lawyers were denied access to me. I was in an underground cell, where when the light went off, you would not see the next person. I was also denied medical attention. I thank God that the CLO and other rights organizations took up the matter and today l am out of detention.

“If not because of the voice of the media and the CLO, DSS wouldn’t have taken me to court. I was given one count that l sent threat messages to Agip Nigeria Limited and Shell Petroleum Development Company demanding money.

“But l said l knew nothing about that because l had no connection with oil companies. But they insisted l was the one. But l kept on holding on to my creator. Now the matter is in court”.

He thanked the Press Unlimited, an organisation in the Netherlands, for donating €2,000 amounting to about N450,000 which facilitated his freedom.

He said though he knew nothing about the organisation, it came to his rescue through an environmental activist, Alagoa Morris and Peter Ikanga.

Abiri said that he had filed a suit to enforce his fundamental human rights at the Federal High Court, Abuja, adding that the matter would come up for hearing on August 27.

“If l am a militant, Niger Delta will know that l am a militant. But l am not a militant. If I were a militant, l wouldn’t have owned an office to be doing my newspaper work. I should have been in the creeks. I have already filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja, to enforce my fundamental human rights,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, the Bayelsa State Chairman, CLO, Chief Nengi James, thanked all the stakeholders, who contributed to the release of Abiri.

He, however, asked security agencies, especially the DSS, to stop the persecution of the Ijaw and Niger Delta people.

James lamented that over 50 persons from the region were being held in detention without trial and called on the DSS to follow the process of law and grant them freedom.

Also speaking, the Bayelsa Chairman, NUJ, Mr. John Angese, said Abiri is a bonafide journalist in the state, noting that his experience in DSS detention would make him stronger in his profession.

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