Agents suspected to be State Security Service (SSS) operatives arrested a journalist in Akwa Ibom State on Tuesday.
Emenike Iroegbu, publisher of Abia Facts Newspaper, was arrested in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, in front of his family. According to his wife, Ekaette, three agents arrived in a black SUV at around 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday and searched the family’s apartment. They confiscated Mr. Iroegbu’s laptops and phones before arresting him and taking him away.
“I was unable to mark down the [license] number plate,” Mrs. Iroegbu told Premium Times. “I was busy begging them to kindly release one of my phones so I could at least be able to stay in touch.”
According to her, Mr. Iroegbu was transferred to the Abia State SSS field office in Umuahia on Wednesday morning.
Inibehe Effiong, a human rights lawyer, brought attention to the development, saying that the journalist had received threats from officials in Abia and Akwa Ibom States in response to the content published on his site.
“It is on record that the Abia State-born blogger has been constantly harassed by the agents and officials of the Abia State government over his publications,” the attorney said. He added that certain Akwa Ibom State officials had been “uncomfortable” with Mr. Iroegbu’s publications.
Abia State officials, however, have denied that the State was behind the journalist’s arrest. But according to Enyinnaya Appolos, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, Mr. Iroegbu was wanted for offenses bordering on “defamation,” saying that he published an article saying the governor buried a nine-year-old on Government House property.
“We are going to request that the SSS should transfer him to us after facing charges in Akwa Ibom,” Mr. Appolos said.
If Mr. Iroegbu did in fact commit defamation, he should have been sued for the offense rather than arrested, according to Mr. Effiong.
“The reason why they’re doing this is because it involved some governors or powerful people. The criminal dimension that the authorities have taken the matter is clearly illegal,” he said.
Mr. Iroegbu’s arrest comes just one month after another journalist, Abubakar Usman, was arrested in Abuja.