PRESS STATEMENT OF SAINT MIENPAMO ONISTHA ON MY DETENTION BY THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE SECURITY
12th Day of May, 2020
Good morning, distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the press, I am Saint Mienpamo Onitsha, the CEO of Naijalive TV. I am aware that there have been different stories flying the cyberspace concerning my suspected abduction. I am making this press statement to put the record straight about what happened.
- It all happened on the 9th day of May, 2020. I was lying on my bed, sleeping, when at about 1:00 am, operatives of the Department of State Security broke into my house. I opened my eyes, and realized that l was at gun point. They were four of them in number who entered my room. It was a sting operation. The men were fully masked, and at that point, I knew I was in for it. Why have these men come after me, I thought? Initially, I felt they were kidnappers or some gently men of the high way. One of them then said to me: “Keep your head down.” For fear of my life, l didn’t say any word in response. But before they went out with me, they opened the room of my children. On seeing that, l told them that l have a daughter who is an epileptic patient, and that, she might collapse if she behold the ugly scene. They listened and closed the door. Thereafter, they took me out blindfolded. I was put inside a vehicle and then they drove off. Later, the car stopped. They all came down of the car, and I was alone in the car for after about one hour tweny minutes or so. l was still in the car, l observed that they put on the air conditioner in the car. As a result of the cold atmosphere, l started freezing.
- After a while, they started driving again, after which they stopped. Thereafter, they asked me to come down which l did. l was asked to stand somewhere. l stood there for about 30 minutes after which they asked me to stand between two cars. After that, they removed the blindfold and took photo shot- of me. Then, they put the blindfold on me again, and then took me to the place l was previously standing. It was after this, that they took me to a cell in the Department of State Security. It was a gruesome site to behold as the cell was filled with cockroaches, and perhaps, other kinds of insects I can’t really describe with words of the mouth. This should be about 3:00 am to 4:00 am in the morning.
- In the cell, there was just one small foam. The room was very dark and scary. It was like my world has come to an end. It was horrible because even at that point, no one has told me the reason for my arrest. At about 7:00 am to 8:00 am, they took me to another cell filled with mosquitoes. l was heavily bitten by the hungry insects. Within this period, I have not eaten anything.
- On several occasions I asked them to tell me the reason for my arrest, but no answer was given. l was not shown anything as reason for my arrest, not even a petition. That same Sunday evening, l was taken to an office on handcuffs and still blindfolded. Not only were my hands in shackles, my legs were also in shackles. Then, about four officers started interviewing me. l was asked an unexpected question:
What did you post about government?
- At this point, I became aware that my detention was connected to the government. They asked me what l knew about the Bayelsa State Tribunal matter against the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State. l replied by telling them about the news concerning the Tribunal as it deals with the Deputy Governor. They quizzed me further by asking me how I got to know about the subpoena. They wanted to know who gave me the subpoena. I replied them, telling them that the subpoena is a public document which anyone can get access to. I also told them that I got a soft copy of the served subpoena from a reliable source. It was obvious at this point that, my arrest is connected to the Tribunal matter.
- When they asked me about the suspected impeachment issue of the Deputy Governor, l replied by telling them that l made publications concerning individuals’ reactions to it, and that, their reactions were basically statements that were issued by the persons involved.
- After these explanations they asked me to stand up. They then took some shots of me. They took my face shot, back shot, and then sides-shots. They also captured my thumbprints. Afterward, they took down record of my profile, after which we returned to the interview session. It was a whole drama.
- They continued by asking me a question concerning the Kogi isolation centre publication which l made. I then brought out the publication from my blog site; Naijalivetvv.com and showed them. l maintained that l got those details from the reactions of some persons from social media. They saw it and confirmed it. Within this period, several calls were made by the DSS operatives while the interview was ongoing.
- After the interview ended, l was asked to give my statement. I started responding to the questions they asked me. Though the questions were basically about the Kogi matter, it was more like a dictation; that is, they were dictating to me how to pen down my statement. I was not given the opportunity to express myself freely even though I could write on my own. I was under immense pressure.
- Minutes after, l was taken to the cell. I was bitten by very big mosquitoes continually. The bites affected me so much — my health was also affected. I couldn’t sleep.
- About 7: 00pm, on Monday, the 11th day of May, 2020, l was told that l am going to meet the DSS Director.
- On Tuesday, the 12th day of May, 2020, l was taken to meet somebody who l suspected to be the Director. I was asked almost the same questions about the Bayelsa matter, and I furnished the answers I had earlier given. After that, I was taken to another room. I was brought out later again. When I came out, l saw Ovieteme George of TVC News and a Leadership News Correspondence. Without my consent, they started taking photos of me as if I was one petty criminal. What could I say? I was a man under pressure. I just watched them as they were doing what they were doing. The whole scene was tensed. I was told by one of the operatives of the DSS to apologize to the State government, that, the apology was aimed at gaining my freedom. Enough pressure was mounted on me to apologize.
- The said Director stated that the media personnel should record that l am a serial fake news carrier and that, l will be prosecuted — the so-called Director asked the media not to capture his face.
- After that, the media men covered me, they asked me if l was kidnapped, l said no, and that l was detained by the DSS. I told them that l have no issue with the Bayelsa state government. I also repeated my stand on the Kogi and Bayelsa State matter which l published. I then apologized to the Bayelsa State Government as I was under pressure to do so.
I will like to state these points:
i. No Petition was given to me, as formal complaint against me.
ii. The DSS operatives where so keen on their questions concerning the Tribunal matter already in court.
iii. I did not post any fake news as was alleged.
iv. The so-called apology was not my making as I was asked to do so under duress.
Thank you all for listening. Truth is indeed power. It is my hope that the truth you have heard now put the record straight as it ought to be.
Saint Mienpamo Onistha