Military releases Daily Trust journalist, seizes computers, phones

The detained Maiduguri Bureau Chief of Daily Trust, Uthman Abubakar, has been released by the military authorities.

The Editor-in-Chief of Daily Trust, Mannir Dan-Ali, disclosed this in a statement on Tuesday shortly after speaking to the editor, who had been in detention since Sunday.

According to Dan-Ali, Abubakar was brought back to the Maiduguri office of the newspaper by an unnamed major who handed him over to a security officer at the office.

The statement read in part, “Abubakar said  he was courteously treated, but  stated that his mobile phones and laptop were still with the military. They told him that they needed time to finish the forensic checks they are carrying out on the equipment.”

The editor-in-chief said that computers and laptops taken from the Abuja head office had similarly not been returned, adding that  senior government officials had continued to say that the items would be released shortly.

Abubakar was released two days after President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the military to end its siege to the office of the Daily Trust Newspaper.

The military had on Sunday laid siege to the offices of Daily Trust in Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna and Maiduguri on the allegation that the newspaper published a report that jeopardised its operation in the North-East. The controversial report was about a plan by the military to attack and liberate Baga.

Soldiers vacated the offices the same day the President gave the order but reportedly refused to release Uthman Abubakar, one of the two journalists arrested at the Maiduguri office.

The Borno State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists on Tuesday  said members visited the headquarters of the counter-insurgency operation in the North-East (Operation Lafiya Dole) to ensure the release of Abubakar.

After the meeting with the Theatre Commander, Maj.-Gen. Benson Akinroluyo, the NUJ issued a statement to condemn the detention.

A statement signed by the Secretary of Borno State Council of the NUJ, Mohammed Ibrahim, read, “NUJ is deeply saddened by the military’s arrest of two of its members and staff of Daily Trust Newspaper, Uthman Abubakar and Ibrahim Sawab (released January 7 and 8, 2019) following a publication on military operation.”

Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission, on Tuesday in a statement by the commission’s Director, Corporate Affairs and External Linkages, Mr Lamber Oparah, quoted the Executive Secretary, Mr Tony Ojukwu, as saying, “We believe that if the editor has any case to answer, he should be taken to the appropriate court of law.”
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