The State Security Service (SSS) on Wednesday interrogated Usman Bugaje, an ardent critic of President Muhammadu Buhari administration, over a recent interview he granted African Television (AIT).
Sources close to Mr. Bugaje said he reported at the SSS headquarters in Abuja at about 10 a.m. on Wednesday, based on invitation.
Mr Bugaje, who in 2016 turned down the Buhari administration’s ambassadorial appointment offer, was interrogated in custody for eight hours, the sources said.
PREMIUM TIMES was told that Mr Bugaje, the convener of Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP), left the SSS premises at about 7p.m. after he was granted bail by the secret police on Wednesday.
An associate of Mr Bugaje told our correspondent that the secret service had invited him two weeks ago after he featured twice on the AIT programmes in Abuja.
“Dr Bugaje had featured twice on an interview programme of the AIT two weeks ago. After his appearances on the television, he received an invitation from the SSS, asking him to report at its office to provide further clarifications on the comments he made on the programmes.
“Today (Wednesday) at 10a.m, he (Mr Bugaje) reported at the SSS in Abuja and he was detained,” the source said.
Mr Bugaje, a notable Northern politician who had served in former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government, had in 2016 turned down Mr Buhari’s ambassadorial nomination offer.
He had premised his rejection of the plum job on desire to nurture a development blueprint for Northern Nigeria called, “Arewa Research and Development Project.”
Mr Bugaje had said on his Facebook page: “Regarding the published nomination for an ambassadorial posting, I have not spoken to the press and may not do so anytime soon.
“I thank those who think me fit for the job, but I have so much in my hands already, especially the Arewa Research and Development Project, which is the only broad platform in the north driving development.
“I have weighed the options and have decided to remain home and continue the struggle for development and good governance.”
Mr Bugaje has consistently criticised the Buhari administration’s handling of the economy and security.
In a Channels TV interview in January, Mr Bugaje said the government was giving tactical support for kidnapping by failing to act to address the security menace.
“We have seen how kidnappers have been collecting money and are enjoying it, and the government is in a way legitimsing the industry,” Mr Bugaje said.
He said government “can’t do what it needs to do, and what it should do, and what it can do,” adding that the situation had worsened to the extent that government and security institutions “are paying money for the release of their own people.”
“That means you are supporting growing criminal industry,” he said.
The SSS and other security agencies have been criticised by many Nigerians for being always quick to arrest critics of the government and while taking no action to bring perpetrators of the worsening insecurity in the country to justice.
Insurgency in the North-east and banditry, mass kidnapping and herders’ attacks in the North-west and the North-central have gone on unchecked, while attacks on security formations and kidnap-for-ransom have escalated in the southern states of the country in the last few weeks.
The incidents have claimed many lives with security agencies, including the SSS, helpless or ineffective in stemming the ugly trend.
When our correspondent put a call through to Mr Bugaje’s line as of 7:40 pm on Wednesday to ascertain his release from detention, his line was switched off.
SSS’ spokesperson, Peter Afunaya, would also not answer this newspaper’s call or text message enquiry sent to him about Mr Bugaje’s detention.