Those in corridors of power behind my ordeal – Segun Olatunji

Following his release after a harrowing twelve-day confinement, the Editor of FirstNews Newspaper,  Segun Olatunji, has claimed that his recent abduction and detention was as a result of his journalistic work, which certain powerful individuals are dissatisfied with.

Olatunji, in an interview recounted how his encounter with the military spiralled into a series of events that included being blindfolded, flown to Abuja, and detained without charges.

He said, “I was at home with my son on Friday, March 15, watching ‘Journalists Hangout,’ when I noticed soldiers outside.

“An officer, who introduced himself as Colonel Lawal, approached me. I inquired about their reason for seeking me. 

“He didn’t provide a clear answer, only stating they were from the military.”

Olatunji stated further that his phones were seized and after a blindfolded journey, he found himself handcuffed, both hands and feet, stripped of his belongings in the nation’s capital, Abuja.

He disclosed that while in detention, interrogations focused on specific stories published by FirstNews, especially those criticizing the Chief of Defense Intelligence and the Chief of Staff to the President.

“The first story was an accusation against the Chief of Defense Intelligence. I informed them that it was a general story, and they did not say much about it.

“They also inquired about a story we published regarding the Chief of Staff to the President. This was the major issue. 

“This is why I had mentioned to some people earlier that those responsible for my arrest were individuals in the corridors of power, suggesting that these stories were the reason for my detention.

“It was evident that certain individuals in positions of power were unhappy with the work being done by FirstNews,” he stated.

During his detention, Mr. Olatunji experienced physical discomfort due to excessively tight handcuffs, which led to numbness in his right hand and leg.

Olatunji’s wife, who witnessed the abduction, described the fear and confusion she felt as armed men took her husband from their home.

While the Publisher of FirstNews, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, and Olatunji’s colleagues and family endured days of uncertainty, the International Press Institute (IPI), the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) diligently worked to locate Olatunji, confronting various government and security agencies.

Their efforts met with denials until a press statement by the IPI and subsequent pressure on military officials led to Olatunji’s admission and release.

The leadership of the IPI, NGE, and NUJ criticised the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) for its actions, which they deemed anti-democratic and a potential threat to press freedom. 

They urged President Bola Tinubu to investigate and reprimand those responsible.

Equally, the Secretary of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, emphasised the importance of a free press.

“If the press is not allowed to carry out its social and constitutional responsibilities but is instead subservient to power, it simply serves as an extension of power,” he said.

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Uwugiaren added that the media community would remain vigilant and plan to consult on further actions regarding this incident.

He explained that the outcry over  Olatunji’s detention underscored ongoing concerns about press freedom and civil-military relations in Nigeria’s evolving democracy.

In his gratitude, Olatunji thanked those who supported him, notably mentioning Yomi Odunuga, whose involvement aided his release process.

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