Amid the controversy over the arrest of some persons alleged to be in possession of sensitive election materials, the Nigerian Army has confirmed holding some miscreants but denied that they were journalists.
Soldiers of the 4 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, with operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) were alleged to have raided a hotel where some people alleged to be journalists were arrested.
An online publication was said to have made the allegation. But, a statement by the Acting Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR, Col. Sani Usman refuted the report.
The statement explained that none of those arrested explained that they were journalists, neither did they show any means of identification to that effect.
On the contrary, the army said: “A number of incriminating items including the Independent National Electoral Commission’s sensitive materials were recovered from them.”
Usman confirmed that the troops actually arrested a deserted soldier and other suspected miscreants in possession of some election materials.
The statement titled “Re: Edo Elections: Soldiers, DSS Molest and Arrests 10 Journalist in Edo” reads in part: “It is important to state that sequel to the prevailing security situation in the state, which led to the postponement of the earlier scheduled gubernatorial election, there were credible security reports that some unpatriotic persons have hired hoodlums with the intention of causing mayhem during the forthcoming election.
“The reports further showed that the suspected hoodlums have been lodged in some hotels within Benin City and its environs. Acting on this, the DSS, in conjunction with troops of 4 Brigade Nigerian Army carried out cordon and search operations in the suspected areas.
“This led to the arrest of 10 suspected persons in one of the hotels. Among the suspects arrested was a deserted soldier. It is pertinent to state that none of the arrested suspects identified himself as a journalist or mentioned the media he reports for, contrary to the allegations of the online media.”
However, the statement added that the arrested persons were well handled, in line with the operational codes of the services and the tradition of dignified human treatment.
It stated that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Yusuf Buratai, has zero tolerance for unprofessional and unethical conduct such as harassing and molesting innocent citizens.
Reports said those arrested have been handed over to the DSS for further investigation.
The state chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr. Roland Osakwe, said he was aware that some arrests had been made.
He, however, said he could not confirm their identity as they did not register their presence at the NUJ state secretariat.
Meanwhile, as part of the activities to check the reported security challenges, the Nigerian Army has promised to deploy drones during the governorship election.