Jones Abiri returns to Bayelsa, relieves ordeal

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‘I was blindfolded, held in underground DSS cell’ says Abiri

 

Jones Abiri, a journalist and publisher of a local tabloid in Bayelsa State, the Weekly Source, on Tuesday returned to Yenagoa, the state capital, and relieved his ordeal in the hands of the Department for State Security (DSS).

Abiri, who was received at the Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) by journalists and leadership of the Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO) said he was arrested in his office, detained for seven days in DSS cell in Yenagoa and later 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, who was also received by his wife and family members, said the hope that God would grant him freedom one day kept him alive throughout the period of his incarceration.

He said: “Precisely l was arrested on July 21st, 2016 in my office at 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 investigations.

“When l perused the search warrant, l saw it was signed by one Magistrate 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 giving 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 medicals. I thank God that the CLO and other rights organization 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 court”.

Abiri assured the DSS and person who signed his bail bond that he would not jump bail expressing optimism that he would 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. Dr. 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 in detention, he had concluded plans to write a book to be entitled, 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 though he knew nothing about the organisation, it came to his rescue through an environmental activist, Alagoa Morris and Peter Ikanga.

Abiri disclosed that he had filed a suit to enforce his fundamental human rights at the Federal High Court, Abuja adding that the matter would come up for hearing on August 27th.

“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.

Read Also: The case for Jones Abiri

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.

Culled from here

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