Jones Abiri, the Bayelsa-based journalist arrested and detained for more than two years by the Department of State Services (DSS), has recounted his ordeal in the hands of the secret service.
Speaking on Tuesday at a reception organized for him by the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) at its press centre, Abiri recalled how he was arrested, detained in an underground cell and denied access to his family and lawyers.
“First and foremost, I thank the almighty God for giving me the grace to overcome every challenge I have had in detention in the hands of Department of State Services,” he said.
“Precisely, I was arrested on the 21st May July 2016 in my office 23 minutes after 3pm. That was the time almost about 12 plain armed men breezed into my office; they came with a document, a search warrant, that my office was under investigation. Actually, when I perused the search warrant, I saw that a magistrate was the one that append the signature.
"I allowed them. I said I was a journalist and a newspaper publisher; I don’t know why you are in my office. So they started searching my office. At the end of the day, they did not see anything, and that was how they handcuffed me, took my phones, laptop… and other things that are not connected to my arrest were taken; all my pay slips and whatever bank information; they took everything from my office and they whisked me away to the state command and shortly after, I gave my statement.
“After spending seven days in Yenegoa, they flew me to Abuja. I did not know where I was going; my eyes were blindfolded and that was the situation I was in; thank God that am alive today. Since then, I was not given the grace and opportunity to see my wife, my children, my brother, sisters and friends; even my lawyers were being denied access to me.
“Yes, I was in underground cell. These public information, nothing so new about. It’s a place where, when the light goes off, you don’t see the next person; it is only when the light is on that you know the persons around you. I was also denied of medical care.”
Abiri thanked all those who advocated for his release and vowed to win the ongoing court case, saying: “I thank God that the Civil Liberty Organization and other media organizations took up the matter and today I am out of DSS captivity. If not because of the voice of the media and the civil rights organizations, till date DSS wouldn’t have taken me to court.
“I was given a one-count charge at the magistrate court that I sent threatening text messages to Agip Nigeria Ltd and Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria demanding for money. I said I don’t know; I have no connection with those oil companies. They said you are the one. So I didn’t hesitate, I keep on calling to my creator; lo and behold the matter is in court.
“By next week Monday, which is 27, at Federal High court Abuja, I will be in court, then the following Monday, which is the 5th of September, the main matter is coming up at the magistrate court. They were thinking that I would jump bail, that immediately they bail me I will not be seen; they did not want to produce me but I’m ready to face my trial at any time. Even tomorrow, if they call that the matter has been rescheduled for tomorrow, I will produce myself in court. I am emphatic and believing God that I’m going to win the case.
“That is my position. I’m not scared of them. I think all these two years, I know I have gallant experience. Like what my chairman said, I have started making some points to compile a book. The book I will call ‘My Prison Journey.’”