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Abiri

After he was arrested, blindfolded and flown to Abuja detention camp of the State Security Services (SSS) without trial and access to medical facilities for two years, Journalist Jones Abiri arrived Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, yesterday to the warm embrace of his wife and members of the pen-pushing fraternity.

Abiri who arrived at the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) secretariat at about noon yesterday, was arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS) in July 2016 and detained for over two years without trial until he was arraigned before a Magistrates’ Court in August 2018 and subsequently granted bail.

The publisher of a local tabloid in Bayelsa, the Weekly Source, relived his ordeal in the hands of the DSS to journalists and leaders of the Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO).

He said he was arrested in his office, detained for seven days in DSS cell in Yenagoa and later blindfolded and flown to Abuja.

He was kept incommunicado in an underground DSS cell in Abuja and denied access to medical treatment for the two years.

Abiri, who was also received by his wife and family members, said the hope that God would grant him freedom one day kept him alive throughout the period of his incarceration.

He said: “ l was arrested on July 21, 2016 in my office at about 3:23p.m.

About 12 armed men came to my office with a search warrant that my office was under investigation.

“When l perused the search warrant, l saw it was signed by one Magistrate Lucky. I allowed them and they searched my office.

At the end of the search they found nothing. They handcuffed me, took my phones, laptops and other things.

Things unconnected to my arrest were also taken. All my pay slips, bank information were taken.

“They whisked me away to the state command. I gave my statement and after spending seven days in Yenagoa, they took me to Abuja.

Initially, l didn’t know where l was going. My eyes were blindfolded.

Since that time, l have not been given the opportunity to see my wife, children, siblings and friends, until now.

“My lawyers were denied access to me. I was in an underground cell, where when the light went off, you would not see the next person. I was also denied medicals.

I thank God that the CLO and other rights organization took up the matter and today l am out of detention.

“If not because of the voice of the media and the CLO, DSS wouldn’t have taken me to court.

I was given one count charge that l sent threat messages to Agip Nigeria Limited and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) demanding money, but l said l knew nothing about that because l had no connection with oil companies.

But they insisted l was the one. l kept on holding onto my creator. Now, the matter is in court.”

He thanked the Press Unlimited, an organisation in Netherlands for donating €2,000 amounting to about N450,000, which facilitated his release.

He said though he knew nothing about the organisation, they came to his rescue through an environmental activist, Alagoa Morris and Peter Ikanga.

Abiri disclosed that he had filed a suit to enforce his fundamental human rights at the Federal High Court, Abuja adding that the matter would come up for hearing on August 27.

“If l am a militant, l wouldn’t have owned an office to be doing my newspaper work. I should have been in the creek.

I have already filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja to enforce my fundamental human rights”, he said.

Also speaking, the Bayelsa State chairman of CLO, Chief Nengi James, thanked all the stakeholders, who contributed to the release of Abiri.

He, however, asked security agencies, especially the DSS, to stop persecution of the Ijaw and Niger Delta people.

James lamented that over 50 persons from the region were being held in detention without trial and called on the DSS to follow the process of law and grant them freedom.



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