The Nigerian Army on Monday explained why its personnel invaded the offices of Daily Trust Newspapers in Maiduguri, Abuja, Lagos and Kaduna on Sunday.
The spokesperson of the Army, Sani Usman, a brigadier general, in a statement said, “Soldiers of the Nigerian Army along with elements of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies were indeed at Abuja and Maiduguri offices of the publishing company to invite the staff of the company over its lead story on Sunday Trust publication.”
Mr Usman said the story, “divulged classified military information, thus undermining national security.”
The Army spokesperson accused the newspaper of disclosing details of planned military operations against Boko Haram terrorists.
“The disclosure of classified security information amounts to a breach of national security and run contrary to Sections 1 and 2 of the Official Secrets Act,” he said.
He also said the story gave the Boko Haram sect prior notice of the Army’s plans while also alerting it to prepare against the Nigerian military.
Mr Usman said the publication sabotaged the planned operation and put the lives of troops in imminent and clear danger.
“We would like to state that the invitation of those responsible for divulging military plans was done with the best of intention in order to make them realise the import of such acts to our national security,” he said.
“We therefore advice all, particularly journalists, not to worry but engage in their responsive reportage and to be professional as the Nigerian Army has no intention of muzzling the press or jeopardising press freedom.
“We however, wish to enjoin further that they should eschew jeopardizing national security in their reportage. We would not tolerate situation where a publication would consistently side with terrorists and undermine our national institutions.”
Mr Usman also appealed to all Nigerians, especially the media, to join hands with the Nigerian military and security forces to end terrorism and insurgency in the country.
“We would like to further assure that the invitation is for further investigation and if need be, all those culpable of jeopardising operations security will be prosecuted by the relevant law enforcement agency,” he said.
Shortly before the statement by the army, the management of Daily Trust Newspapers had given details of how armed soldiers laid siege on the company’s corporate headquarters and regional offices in Maiduguri and Lagos.
The CEO and Editor-in-Chief of the paper, Mannir Dan Ali issued the statement Sunday evening.
Read the full statement below:
*Military invades Daily Trust, arrests journalists, impound computers*
For 4 Hours on Sunday, January 6th 2019, Armed Soldiers who came in 5 vehicles occupied the head office of Media Trust Limited, publishers of the Daily Trust titles sending away journalists and other staff.
Before the siege was called off at about 9.30 pm, the soldiers has ransacked the newsroom and carted away dozens of computers and effectively strangulated the production of the Monday edition of the paper.
Earlier in the day at about 4 pm, another detachment of soldiers and plain cloth security officials went to the Maiduguri regional office of the company 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 headoffice alongside our computers was released after a period of detention at the Mogadishu barracks in Abuja.
In Lagos, military men in 7 vehicles arrived our offices at Textile Labour House in Agidingbi at about 9 pm and remain there until the time of issuing this statement.
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.
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 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.