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7 Jan 2019

FLASHBACK: In 2014, soldiers attacked Daily Trust vans ‘in search of bombs’

On June 6, 2014, Nigerians woke up to the news that the distribution vans of Daily Trust, the Abuja-based newspaper, had been attacked by soldiers, with copies of newspapers confiscated.

This came after Daily Trust had reported that top generals shared military land among themselves in choice areas of Abuja.

Among those named in the land grab were all the services chiefs.

Also attacked by the soldiers were vans belonging to Leadership newspaper, which had reported that 10 generals and five other senior army officers had been court-martialed and found guilty of supplying arms to Boko Haram.
The military claimed the soldiers were acting on intelligence that Boko Haram insurgents were moving bombs using newspaper vans — a claim that was laughed off by the general public.

Chris Olukolade, a major general and military spokesman at the time, issued a statement saying: “Troops this morning embarked on thorough search of vehicles conveying newspapers and newsprint across board.  This followed intelligence report indicating movement of materials with grave security implications across the country using the channel of newsprint related consignments.

“The Defence Headquarters wishes to clarify that the exercise has nothing to do with content or operation of the media organizations or their personnel as is being wrongly imputed by a section of the press. The military appreciates and indeed respects the role of the media as an indispensable partner in the ongoing counter-insurgency operation and the overall advancement of our country’s democratic credentials. As such, the military will not deliberately and without cause, infringe on the freedom of the press.

“The general public and the affected media organizations in particular are assured that the exercise was a routine security action and should not be misconstrued for any other motive.”

President Goodluck Jonathan later apologised, saying he — the commander-in-chief of the armed forces — did not know of the raid.

He later approved compensations of N10 million each to the affected newspapers, but they were forced to refund the money by EFCC who said the funds were taking from the office of the national security adviser.

HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF

On Sunday evening, the military struck again, attacking the offices of Daily Trust in Maiduguri and Abuja, and arresting editors and reporters, in addition to seizing computers.

The offence this time?

John Agim, defence headquarters spokesman, said the newspaper published a story that revealed “the military’s plan on the fight against insurgency” — showing that they were “sympathetic” to Boko Haram.

“I think it is completely unacceptable for any media house to have information about the military plan on the fight against insurgency and publish such plans,” Agim said.

“Boko Haram terrorists will be informed ahead of time and that also shows that they (Daily Trust) are sympathetic to the insurgents and the intention was just to invite them and let them understand the dangers their action puts on the military.

“So, the intention is not to stop the press from doing their job. They need to understand that without peace and security in the land, they cannot perform their job.

“So for everybody who has information, there’s a need to check with the security agencies before they publish such because releasing such information ahead of time can jeopardise the operation.”

On Sunday, Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, said the miliytary had been ordered to vacate Daily Trust premises and the issues would be resolved by dialogue.

Does that mean President Muhammadu Buhari, the commander-in-chief, was unaware of the raid too?

Source: TheCable

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