His Account Unedited:
Whenever it said that Journalists are Endangered Species, I now know that the statement is just a euphemism. The truth is that Journalists are always in war zones. And to effectively practise in a very dangerous zone like Plateau State demands prayers. From what I have seen and reported since I arrived Jos on May 1 2017, will say Plateau State is the hotbed of antagonism. But an observer is considering writing a book entitled: ‘Plateau State and its Killing Fields’, With my 28 hours detention by the military, I’m now convinced that Nigeria is in serious trouble. The incidents in question happened between Saturday October 6 and the night of Sunday October 7 2018.
I came back last (Sunday) night after spending about 28 hours behind bars over a former Chief of Administration in Nigerian Army, General Mohammed Idris Alkali (retd), who had been declared missing in questionable circumstances. Alkali was said to have retired a few weeks before he was declared missing on Monday, September 3 2018, a day after gunmen swooped on Dura-Du in Jos South Local Government Area of Plateau State and killed 13 persons.
On that Saturday October 6 2018, I went to the UBA ATM and did a cash transaction and decided to buy Irish potatoes and eggs at the popular ANNE BREEZE RESTAURANT in Rayfield area of Jos. The waiters have not brought my food when soldiers in two lorry trucks (about 30 of them), all masked and armed, swooped on the place, shot indiscriminately at sight and arrested every human being they sighted. My initial feeling during the shooting was that they were either the Fulani herdsmen (who had been a torn in the flesh of the Berom ethnic nationality), fake soldiers on military uniform or Boko Haram. Many of them were masked
Passers by were not spared, women and persons who were living in nearby houses were picked. Even my identification that I’m a journalist with PUNCH Newspapers didn’t help matters as they did not even want to see my Identity Card. We were 37 victims of invasion, 28 men and 9 women. The soldiers who carried out the raid were called SPECIAL SQUAD from Maiduguri. A source said the troop were deployed by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. General Yusuf Buratai, from Maiduguri to handle the Jos crises, especially because of the mysterious missing of General Alkali. The COAS was said to have taken the decision “because of their excellent skill in dealing with Boko Haram insurgency in the North East.” The raid was led by one Captain RABIU from 3 Division of Nigerian Army Headquarters in Rukuba Barracks, Jos who showed the Maiduguri Boys the way.
While two elderly men in their mid-70s including a retired Chief Superintendent of Police, Chuwang Choji was picked, a serving Army General who was drinking with a young woman I will describe an Eaglet beside him was spared. Choji’s son, Chollom, was not spared as they were picked in their house. The old man just returned home to face the invaders. The Mistress of the drinking General never betrayed any fear or concern, over the shooting, but instead made mockery, and grinned like an ape as we fled for our lives. But unconfirmed sources among us claimed that the General tried to persuade the soldiers to exercise restraint because it was not yet time for the curfew which takes effect as from 10:00pm.
The invading solders also picked the waiters at another pub (drinking joint) called BIG DADDY and many other persons on the roadsides who were trekking to their homes since it was already bedtime. A Berom man and his young fiancé who is also daughter of a politician who contested the recently held governorship primary election in Plateau State was picked. Three persons who came as wedding guests from Makurdi and Keffi, including the Information and Protocol Officer of Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Abraham Habu Ekpo were unlucky. They were accommodated in a Hotel within the vicinity of Steffans Night Club and just decided to take a walk. The casualties also included one Pam, a businessman; Michael Nigsuk, another businessman; three Yoruba guys, one Engineer from Abeokuta, Ogun State whose name I cant remember; Ayomipo from Ondo town, Ondo State and Gabriel Sunday from Ekiti State.
As the soldiers drove us, we were told to put off our telephones. The law was that you don’t talk, you don’t move and even when nature, for instance sneezing knocks, you’re in trouble.
The 28 of us (men) were driven to the 3 Division of Nigerian Army in Rukuba Barracks, Jos kept in an uncompleted building. They confiscated ALL OUR BELONGINGS, including telephones, money, ATM cards, car and house keys.
Many of the victims couldn’t take their cars and personal properties. We had no access to my families; I couldn’t communicate my family, Editors, friends, and colleagues because they took our phones.
There in the dungeon of 3 Division of Nigerian Army Headquarters in Rukuba Barracks, Jos, we saw over 30 persons, including a pregnant woman. These persons have been described as ‘suspects’ that will assist them getting the culprits behind the missing General. I wouldn’t know if the NOROH DUNGS, the ‘heavily pregnant woman’ who was said to have been apprehended recently, was the pregnant woman in question.
All the male suspects in captivity were chained in pairs, hands and legs. If one wants to answer the call of nature, his partner must go with him, under the tight security of a soldier. It was learnt that the women we met there were only chained the first day they arrived. But they were off chains when we got there and it has been so.
The 9 women among us, including the CEO of ANNE BREEZE, were kept in a separate place. Of course, they deserve soft landing and preferential treatment. But we (the 28 persons) were kept in an uncompleted building which was manned by heavily armed Military Police. The building housing us cannot even take 10 persons, but 28 men stayed there. Our Anopheles friends (I won’t call them mosquitoes), welcomed us with stings, malaria-prone bites, while their wings came with uncomfortable noise. I learnt another lesson that even when people speak about cold in Jos, the cold weather in Rukuba is worse than that in Jos. Moreover, you sit on the dusty floor, unhealthy for a life. Throughout our stay, one young officer always on mufti, who should be a Captain kept issuing threats. I know I’m older than him, and something kept telling me that at 50 (which is on November 22 2018), I would be a General if I had enlisted into the Nigerian Army since 1998. I know I’m older than him, but he’s doing his job. My problem is that soldiers feel everybody, including civilians, should obey every last order, even where it is not applicable. After giving us our phones, preparatory to freedom, he seized mine and that of another man over suspicion that I wanted to make a call, which is untrue. However, I also commend his boldness; I think his case is not pride or overzealousness, but thoroughness. People like that could sometimes be good friends, better than brothers.
At Rukuba Barracks captivity, some of us couldn’t sleep, others snored ceaselessly. Before we slept, they gave up the opportunity to go out and urinate outside as many times. But at bedtime, that grace stopped. We had to urinate in a Coca Cola plastic container. Those who took Beer (I didn’t) went many times. A very old Plateau man urinated more than 10 times before day break. Baba said he was sick and on drugs which have been responsible for constantly urinating. On one occasion, he had to spill it on the ground as he didn’t get quick permission.
But we commend the efforts of the soldiers. They assisted us in emptying the can of urine one after the other. Those who went for the most serious call of nature were given the opportunity. A wedding guest visited convenience more than seven times throughout our stay. The soldiers were were warm, convivial and obeyed instructions that they should never beat anybody. Many of them have become my friends and brothers.
The next day, we were interviewed more than 5 times by Military Police who kept us at constant watch. I heard some of the officers say that after screening us, they should have allowed us to go if we have no link with the masterminds. Some said those who arrested us went for the wrong target; yet superior voices said our arrest wasn’t a mistake.
Several of our photos were taken; my house address in Jos was taken. But I hope they won’t do anything funny; if they do, they will hear from my lawyers. On several occasions during the interview, I told them I am a Journalist with PUNCH Newspapers and I only went to buy food. But they never answered me, until one of the interview sessions conducted by a very responsible man who is said to be the Commandant of the 3 Division of in Rukuba Barracks (I can’t confirm this, but they said he’s a General); I told him that I was working on the press statement sent to me by the Deputy Director of Army Public Relations in 3 Division Nigerian Army, Col. Kayode Ogunsanya, when the invaders struck, which was the fact. I told him I even spoke with Ogunsanya and he asked for an evidence and instructed that they should get my phone; he saw the details of my chat with him and he said I should wait. But that didn’t give me preferential treatment.
I am sure they called him and behold when Ogunsanya came, he told them that we have been communicating. Ogunsanya was dazed that despite introducing myself, they still held me. He then promised to “do something”, which I believe, he did in his capacity. At least, he confirmed that I’m a Journalist with PUNCH Newspapers (and not fake), even though that didn’t give me ‘amnesty’ as I and others, were still held for over seven hours before our eventual freedom.
My 28 hours detention in Rukuba Barracks have confirmed the thinking that in a room of 100 people, one man with gun is majority. Although one is not making trouble, I will await the advice of my lawyers as going to court for to press for the enforcement of my fundamental human rights cannot be ruled out in this matter.
***Friday OLOKOR, Plateau State Correspondent of THE PUNCH, writes from Jos.
Inclusive Foundation Mourns Veteran Actress, Rachael Oniga
Inclusive Social Welfare and Empowerment Foundation, a non-governmental organisation has expressed its heartfelt sympathy to family, friends and the entire movie industry over the loss of the veteran actress, Rachael Oniga who died at age 64.
The CEO of the foundation, Chief (Mrs.) Pat Eleto, in a condolence visit to the family, on Saturday, July 31st, said the news came as a rude shock to many, but she believes that the late actress has created a great impact with her career, and her legacy should never be forgotten.
In her statement, Chief (Mrs.)Eleto said:
“It is with a heavy heart that I grief with the family of a sister, friend and adviser of Inclusive Social Welfare and Empowerment Foundation.
“Mrs. Oniga, is one of our great ambassadors, and we were actually working on a project that is meant for the later part of this year when the sad news of her demise came.
“Death is inevitable, we pray for the repose of her soul, and may God comfort all the people she left behind. We also hope and pray that all her good legacies, be sustained because, she was indeed a pillar of support to our foundation, and also one of veterans that contributed immensely to the growth of Nollywood,” the statement reads.
A native of Delta State, Oniga was one of the ambassadors of Inclusive Social Welfare and Empowerment Foundation.
Alaafin Shuns Ooni-Backed Group Over Alleged Anti-Buhari Posture
The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, on Friday, at the last minute, allegedly cancelled an appointment he gave to a Yoruba group, Ooni’s Caucus, on the alleged complaint that members of the group are “notorious critics” of the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
The Ooni’s Caucus, which was inaugurated at the palace of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, on July 20, 2021, is made of many influential Yoruba persons and is being coordinated by a former Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria, Mr Akin Osuntokun.
PUNCH learnt that Osuntokun led about 14 members of the group to Alaafin’s palace for the alleged 11am appointment on Friday, but after waiting for about two and a half hours, the influential monarch sent words to them that he would not be seeing them.
According to a source, who spoke to PUNCH on condition of anonymity, some of the group’s members who went to Alaafin’s palace with Osuntokun were a monarch, the Olugbon of Orile-Igbon, Oba Francis Alao; a former presidential spokesman, Dr Doyin Okupe; a former commissioner in Osun State, Muyiwa Ige; a former Minister of Defence, Mrs Dupe Adelaja; a retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Taiwo Lakanu, Oye Oyewumi, Sola Lawal, among others.
A former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, is also said to be a member of Ooni’s Caucus, but he was not on the delegation to Alaafin’s palace on Friday.
The source, who is a member of the group, claimed that the group had through the Olugbon secured an appointment with Alaafin since Monday, and the same appointment was confirmed on Thursday, only for them to get to the palace and the Alaafin refused to see them on the claim that they were anti-Buhari and were also loyalists of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The source explained that the main purpose of the meeting was for the newly-inaugurated group to get Alaafin’s blessings and to possibly discuss the issue of the embattled Yoruba Nation agitator, Chief Sunday Adeyemo, alias Sunday Igboho, who is currently being held and tried in Cotonou, Benin Republic.
The source said, “The Olugbon, a member of the caucus, was the one who booked the appointment, but he said the Alaafin said he didn’t want to see us because we’re notorious critics of the Buhari government.
“He (Alaafin) confirmed the appointment yesterday (Thursday). But when we got there today, he kept us waiting; after a while, he asked to see the Olugbon. He (Alaafin) didn’t come to see us; we were told he said he wouldn’t see us because we are notorious critics of Buhari’s government and that some of us are close to Obasanjo, who is also critical of the government.
“We were made to wait for about two and a half hours; he gave us an appointment for 11am; we got there at 11am and at about 1.30pm, that was when it was obvious to us that he wasn’t coming (to see us). But he initially asked to see the Olugbon, who went to see him for about an hour. When the Olugbon eventually came back, he said Alaafin would not see us, saying we are a group that is critical of the Buhari government and some of us are loyalists of Obasanjo.”
On whether the group’s mission to Alaafin’s palace was to discuss Sunday Igboho’s matter, the source said, “Of course, the issue (of Igboho) would come up but that was not the purpose of the visit. The issue of Igboho concerns all the Yoruba people but that was not our reason for going to him.”
On whether the group would try and book another appointment, the source said, “I don’t know; we were all surprised that a Yoruba oba can refuse to see his children on account of not wanting to be on the bad side of Buhari’s government. I would have thought that an oba is supposed to take everybody as his children, whether they are supporters of Buhari the All progressives Congress or the Peoples Democratic Party or whatever party.”
But when contacted by PUNCH, the Media Director to the Alaafin, Bode Durojaye, said the reason his principal did not see the group was because they did not have any prior appointment with him.
Durojaye said the Alaafin would be willing to entertain the group if they booked an appointment.
He said, “Those who came are men of honour and kabiyesi did not say he did not want to see them. He did not say he would not see them because they are critical of President Buhari or they are former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s men. Obasanjo himself is a friend of Kabiyesi, so you can see that what you were told was not what happened.
“Kabiyesi said he could not see them because they did not give him prior notice that they were coming. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to see them again. They can notify him and he will give them an appointment. You cannot just come and say you want to see him, there are protocols to follow and due process is always adhered to at Alaafin’s Palace.
“There was no rancour, no ill-feeling even when they were going; I was there and I saw them off to their vehicles. If anybody told you that kabiyesi said he didn’t want to see them because they are critical of government or they are Obasanjo’s men, that is a lie.”
NMA Reacts As Bandits Break Into, Pick Nurse At Zamfara General Hospital
Suspected bandits invaded General Hospital, Dansadau, Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State on Friday, resulting in the abduction of a nurse and caregiver.
Residents said that immediately the men stormed the medical facility, the armed men headed to the outpatient ward in search of a doctor or nurse.
“When they couldn’t find anybody there, they started going from one ward to another. A nurse and a caregiver were abducted. They then moved to staff quarters looking for doctors and nurses but could not find any.”
“The armed criminals had earlier attempted to attack Maigoge, a community located six kilometres north of Dansadau town.
“But when they laid siege to the community, the vigilantes otherwise known as Yan Sakai firmly defended the village. The vigilante killed some of the bandits and injured several others.
“They then invaded the hospital to kidnap nurse and doctors that will treat their injured brothers in the forest.”
Maigoge is one of the few communities in Dansadau Emirate known to be firmly defending themselves against bandits.
“The staff of the facility are not carrying out night duties now. They only attend to patients at day time. They then move inside the town to spend night usually at undisclosed locations,” he added.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association in Zamfara state, Dr Mannir Bature, who confirmed the attack said the association is worried by the unfortunate incident.
He said they would hold an emergency state officers council meeting on Saturday.
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