Five truckloads of heavily armed soldiers yesterday invaded the head office of Media Trust Limited at Jabi, Abuja and proceeded to occupy the newspaper company, which publishes the Daily Trust titles, for five hours. While the siege lasted, the soldiers drove out all the staff, carted away desktop and laptop computers and restricted entry or departure from the premises. The soldiers, who arrived the offices at 4.30pm, suddenly left at 9.30pm after top political leaders intervened. Before the siege was called off, they ransacked the newsroom and carted away dozens of computers, effectively strangulating production of the paper’s Monday edition.
Daily Trust’s Chief Executive Officer and Editor in Chief Malam Mannir Dan-Ali said in a statement last night that “A few hours earlier, another detachment of soldiers and plain cloth security officials went to the company’s Maiduguri regional office and conducted a search, at the end of which they took away the Regional Bureau Chief, Uthman Abubakar and a reporter, Ibrahim Sawab. Neither the company nor the families of the two reporters have heard from them since. A production staff who was taken away from the Abuja head office alongside our computers was released after a period of detention at the Mogadishu Barracks in Abuja.”
Also last night, soldiers in seven vehicles went to Daily Trust’s offices at Textile Labour House in Agidingbi and laid another siege. The management said they were there up to the time of issuing this statement. The company CEO added, “We have not been told of the reason for the military operation against this newspaper but suspect it may have to do with the lead story of the Daily Trust on Sunday that dwelt on the military’s effort to retake some towns recently reported to have been lost to insurgents. Another clue is that during the invasion of our premises both in Maiduguri and in Abuja, the military men were asking for the reporters who wrote the story.”
He added, “Media Trust Limited condemns this unlawful act and calls on the military authorities to release the two reporters arrested in Maiduguri and return the dozens of computers that were taken away from our newsroom. We also like to thank our colleagues in the media and all others who have been calling and supporting us in our hour of need. We also appreciate the efforts of some government officials who insist that there is a better way of handling relations with the media.”