The police on Friday raided Peoples Gazette newspaper offices in Abuja over a report in which a former Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, was named.
Witnesses say some police officers stormed the offices of the newspaper located at Plot 1095 Umar Shuaibu Avenue, and arrested John Adenekan, an assistant managing editor, and four other staff members of the medium.
The four staffers are Ameedat Adeyemi, Grace Oke, Sammy Ogbu and Justina Tayani, who were still at the Utako Police Station as of the time PREMIUM TIMES visited the newspaper’s office.
Residents of the building housing the newspaper confirmed the incident but said they did not know why the medium’s staff members were arrested.
“A couple of them (police officers) stayed outside while about six went in. All I could see from my window was them taking some people away in their vehicles,” a resident of the building told this newspaper.
When asked if the security operatives created a scene before leaving, he said “No”, adding that the officers knew what they came for.
The building housing Peoples Gazette has six flats. The five other flats are residential apartments.
The Deputy Managing Editor of Peoples Gazette, Boladale Adekoya, told PREMIUM TIMES the staff members were arrested over a story detailing how anti-graft ICPC raided a property and recovered cash and luxury items.
Mr Adekoya said the officers originally came for Managing Editor Samuel Ogundipe and reporter Adefemola Akintade, but neither of them was around during the raid.
“When they arrived, they met the secretary and they said they have a warrant to arrest our ME and one of our reporters. Our secretary was trying to explain to them that the ME is not around when they shoved her aside and started going into our offices one after the other.
“The ME they came for was not around. In fact, he is not even in the country. So, being the most senior person on the ground, they arrested Mr Adenekan and left.
“After some minutes, they came back to pack everybody. They arrested two corps members with us, an intern who is more like our office assistant and the secretary,” he said.
Mr Adekoya said the police officers came from Utako Divisional Police Station and that the arrest warrant they presented did not identify a specific person.
On the controversial report, he said Mr Buratai has been pushing Peoples Gazette to pull it down.
The newspaper had on June 23 published a report claiming that the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission raided a property in Abuja belonging to Mr Buratai during which multibillion-naira cash and Rolex watches were recovered.
The ICPC later described the report as inaccurate and concocted, saying its investigation did not link Mr Buratai to the property it raided.
The former Army chief also told PREMIUM TIMES, through an associate, that the ICPC did not at any time raid his property or recover any item from him. He challenged those who claimed his property was raided to provide evidence that such an enforcement action happened.
Mr Ogundipe, in a Twitter post, condemned the raid on his newspaper’s office and the arrest of staff members. He accused the Muhammadu Buhari-led government of an “unwarranted onslaught” against his staff members.
“Muhammadu Buhari may cry about what and what shouldn’t be his legacy, but this unwarranted onslaught on our journalists today, one of many we have suffered since we launched PG in September 2020, will forever live in infamy for his despotic regime,” he said.
The lawyer to Peoples Gazette, Inibehe Effiong, faulted the police for raiding his client’s business premises and arresting its staffers.
“They claim they only invited them for interrogation but if that is so, how did they end up being detained? ” Mr Inibehe said. “Also why did they need to raid the paper’s offices to invite them for questioning?”