Colleagues of the abducted Editor of FirstNews, Mr Segun Olatunji, on Thursday, revealed how the journalist was abducted in his Lagos home, whisked away, and allegedly tortured by the military over a story on the Defence Chief.

Olatunji, a former Kaduna State correspondent of The PUNCH, was abducted by men in military uniform from his home in the Iyana Odo, Abule Egba area of Lagos State.

The PUNCH earlier reported that military authorities, on Thursday, yielded to pressure and released Olatunji, who was abducted from his home on Friday, March 15, 2024.

He was released to some media stakeholders, including Yomi Odunuga of The Nation newspaper and Iyobosa Uwugiaren of Thisday Newspaper in Abuja on Thursday after sustained pressure from the media.

Before his release, the International Press Institute, the Nigeria Guild of Editors, and Olatunji’s employers had in separate statements, faulted his incarceration, asking authorities to either release the editor or charge him to court.

But Olatunji’s colleagues, under the umbrellas of the International Press Institute, the Nigerian Guild of Editors, and the Nigeria Union of Journalists, linked the journalist’s abduction to a story published by FirstNews titled, “Revealed: Defence Chief running office like family business – Public Interest Lawyers.”

Addressing a press conference at the secretariat of the FCT Council of NUJ, Utako, Abuja, the Secretary, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, said despite spirited efforts to locate the whereabouts of Olatunji and repeated inquiries, the military denied having the journalist in their custody.

He said, “However, on Monday, IPI Nigeria was able to determine (without doubt) that the journalist was being detained and tortured by the Defence Intelligence Agency in Abuja. The IPI then informed the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa and the Chief of Defence Intelligence, Major General Emmanuel Undiandeye, of its finding and asked them to release our colleague immediately.

“We also provided that information to top government officials who also reached out to Generals Musa and Undiandeye. Again, they lied that the journalist was not in their custody. Yet our sources were telling us we needed to act fast to save our colleague from being killed.

“That was what culminated in the IPI Nigeria’s press statement of Wednesday, which clearly accused the DIA of abducting and detaining Mr Olatunji. Once that statement circulated in the media, the anti-democratic officers became jittery. They became even more confused after they became aware that the NGE, the NUJ, and the IPI had scheduled a follow-up press conference for this morning. Knowing the game was up, they admitted their crime last night. They confessed to the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Mohammed Idris, that our colleague was in their custody and that they would release him immediately.

“At this point, we want to put on record the important role played by the minister of information and other top officials of government towards the resolution of this matter. These reckless and anti-media officers, who apparently have no respect for civilian authorities, lied to and disobeyed officials of the Federal Government who intervened.

“We are sure that many right-thinking members of society, including the international community, are both amazed and shocked by the lawlessness and fear-provoking action of the DIA – an agency under the command of Major General Undiandeye, who reports directly to the Chief of Defence Staff, General Musa.

“The DIA’s action makes us wonder about its real intention. Our suspicion is that they planned to secretly eliminate Mr Olatunji so that members of the public could attribute his disappearance to unknown gunmen. But we are glad they failed.”

He, however, urged President Bola Tinubu to wade into the matter and ensure justice is done in the case, adding that “the Nigerian media community shall consult further in the next few days on the actions to take against the CDS, the CDI, and the military regarding this matter”.

“For us, this vicious, uncivilised, unlawful, and criminal action of the DIA is unacceptable. The action is alien to Nigeria’s democratic space. It is now clear that there are some officers in our military who are still finding it difficult to subject themselves to civil authority 24 years after our country returned to representative governance.

“We do not think this kind of attitude should be condoned by President Bola Tinubu, particularly, and Nigerians, in general. If officers in a military institution like DIA could hack a journalist’s telephone, mishandle his wife, abduct him, detain him secretly for 12 days and disobey senior officials of the federal government, then our democracy cannot be said to be safe.

“Although our colleague has now been released, we are calling on President Tinubu to ensure that these officers are punished for their bad behaviour. By all standards, the actions of the DIA, General Musa and Major General Undiandeye are against the provisions of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution and other international instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory – which forbid the detention of any citizen or resident beyond 48 hours, except with a valid court order.

“More so, the DIA’s action is a direct attack on press freedom. One of the core missions of the free press is to serve as a watchdog on power.”