By Domotimi Daniel
Jones Abiri, a journalist and publisher of a local tabloid in Bayelsa State, The Weekly Source, yesterday relieved his ordeal in the Department of State Sevices (DSS) cell.
Abiri returned to Yenagoa, the capital, and was received at the secretariat of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) by reporters and the leadership of Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO).
He said he was arrested in his office and detained for seven days in DSS cell in Yenagoa.
Abiri said he was blindfolded and flown to Abuja.
He said he was kept incommunicado in an underground DSS cell in Abuja and denied access to medical treatment for about two years.
Abiri, whose wife and relations were with him, said the hope that God would free him one day kept him alive.
He said: “Precisely l was arrested on July 21, 2016, in my office about 3:23pm. About 12 armed men came to my office and they came with a document, a search warrant that my office was under investigation.
“When l perused the search warrant, l saw it was signed by a magistrate, simply named 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, banking 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 grace and the opportunity to see my wife, my children, sisters, brothers and friends.
“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 medical treatment. I thank God that the CLO and other rights organisations 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. But l kept on holding onto my creator. Now the matter is in court”.
Abiri assured the DSS and the person who signed his bail bond that he would not jump bail, optimistic he will win the case.
“They were thinking that l would jump bail. But l am ready and very resilient to face my trial. I am emphatic and believing God that l am going to win the case. I am not scared of them. Ambassador Godknows Igali and Fredrick Andy came to my rescue to sign the bail bonds without fear. They stuck their neck. So, l will not jump bail”, he said.
He added that following his experience, he had concluded plans to write a book: My Prison Journey.
He thanked the Press Unlimited, an organisation in Netherlands for donating €2000 amounting to about N450,000, which facilitated his freedom.
He said the organisation knew about his case through an environmental activist, Alagoa Morris, and Peter Ikanga.
Abiri said he filed a suit to enforce his rights at the Federal High Court, Abuja, adding that the matter will come up on August 27.
“If l am a militant, Niger Delta will know that l am a militant. But l am not a militant. If I were 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, CLO, Chief Nengi James, thanked all the stakeholders, who contributed for 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.
Also speaking, the Bayelsa Chairman, NUJ, Mr. John Angese, said Abiri is a bonafide journalist in the state saying his experience in DSS detention would make him stronger in his profession.
Chairmen of the Bayelsa Federated Newspapers Publishers Association (BAFENPA) and Bayelsa Independent Publishers Association (BIPA) in their various remarks asked the DSS to respect the rule of law in its operations.
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