The Nigerian Army has released a statement on the presence some soldiers at the Abuja and Maiduguri offices of Media Trust, publishers of Daily Trust Newspaper.
In a statement by Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman, the Director of Army Public Relations, the Army said that its soldiers “along with elements of 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, which divulged classified military information, thus undermining national security.”
Following the Army’s presence, President Muhammadu Buhari directed that the military should vacate the premises of the media house, and resolve any issue through dialogue, a statement by Garba Shehu said.
The Federal Government has directed the military to vacate the premises of @daily_trust and the order has been complied with. Issues between the military and the newspaper as they affect the coverage of the war in the Northeast will be resolved through dialogue.
— Garba Shehu (@GarShehu) January 6, 2019
The Army claimed that the Daily Trust story “disclosed details of planned military operations against the Boko Haram terrorists.”
The statement continued:
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. It afforded the Boko Haram terrorists prior notice of our plans and giving them early warning to prepare against the Nigerian military, thus sabotaging the planned operations and putting 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. 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.
A statement by the CEO and Editor-in-Chief if the paper, Mannir Dan Ali on the incident said:
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.