Officers of the State Security Service (SSS) in Ondo State on Wednesday beat and detained a reporter with the Compass Newspapers, Babatope Okeowo. He was on his way to the governor’s office around 3.30pm when he encountered the SSS who intercepted his car.
The State Director of SSS, Victor Duru, who ordered the release of the reporter after a five-hour ordeal said he did not order the arrest of the journalist.
“I didn’t have any problem with Mr. Okeowo and I did not send anybody to beat him,” he said during a telephone interview.
Narrating his ordeal after he was set free, Mr. Okeowo said he initially thought his abductors were kidnappers when they first approached him.
“At about 3.30pm, as I was driving from Alagbaka end of the road towards the governor’s lodge, I saw an unmarked vehicle coming from the rear with siren blaring. I looked at the inner mirror and discovered it was just a vehicle, so I gave him the way so that it could overtake me.
“Instead of doing that, the driver of the vehicle slowed down and I decided to move on. On getting to the junction of the governor’s lodge, I showed signal that I would be going to the left. The road to my left leads to my destination, which was the Press Centre of the Nigeria Union of Journalists.
“As I made to negotiate the left, the driver in the vehicle overtook me from the driver’s side, which was clearly a breach of the traffic rule. Instead of the vehicle moving on, it blocked the road and four men that I later realised to be men of the State Security Service disembarked and ordered me to enter their vehicle.
“At first, I thought the men were kidnappers from the way they overtook me at the governor’s lodge junction. When they told me to enter their vehicle, I resisted and demanded to see their Identity Cards.”
Threat of court action
According to him, instead of letting him go after showing them his Identification Card, one of the SSS officials slapped him on the order of a man he later realised was an Assistant Director of the service.
“The other men used the butts of their rifles to hit me on my knees,” he said. “Another one threatened to shoot me if I refused to enter their vehicle. At this time, a crowd had gathered. The people around were asking the men to show their Identity Card and they did.
“It was at this point that they grew too angry and they forced me into their car and forcefully took me to their office. They left my car at the point where they forcefully took me away, with all the documents and materials in it.
“On getting to their office, they made me to sit on bare floor, molested me and made me to write a statement under caution.”
Mr. Okeowo said that the Chairpersons of Nigeria Labour Congress, Mohamad Braimoh and Nigerian Union of Journalists, Dele Atunbi, pleaded for his release, as the SSS officials threatened to take him to court without stating his offence.
“It was one of the people that was around that reported the incident to Labour leaders,” he said.
The reporter was released to the union officials on the order of the State Director of SSS, Mr. Duru.