Dr. Chido Onumah, a journalist and activist, was on September 29, 2019 arrested by operatives of Nigeria’s intelligence agency, the Department of State Services (DSS), at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja while returning from a trip to Spain. He was detained at the DSS office at the airport and later at its headquarters in Abuja. He was later released same day after six hours in DSS custody.
Following public condemnation of the arrest, the DSS responded saying it did not arrest the Chido, but only “engaged him in interaction” over an inscription on his shirt.
In a statement released by DSS spokesperson, Peter Afunnaya, the agency said, “The DSS wishes to make clarifications regarding media reports that Dr Chido Onumah was arrested by the Service. To set the records right, Onumah was never arrested by the Service. He was rather engaged in an interaction during which an act of his capable of undermining public order and national security was explained to him.”
The statement claimed DSS had credible intelligence that chido might be a subject of mob attack if allowed to go into town in same cloth and as a result “the Service invited him and drew his attention to the implications of his probable (un)intended action.”
The Service said further: “It was strongly believed that an attack on Onumah would have sparked ethno-religious reprisals with dire consequences for law and order and public safety in the country. He understood the issues and pledged not to engage in activities that may cause disaffection in Abuja and the country at large. He subsequently removed the cloth with the inciting symbols and inscriptions and agreed not to use it.”
The agency said its interaction with Chido was friendly and that he appreciated the courtesy extended to him and “The Service arranged for him to go back to his accommodation in town.”
In a chat with the media after his release, Chido disclosed that he was arrested for wearing a T-shirt with the inscription “We are all Biafrans”. According to him, “They said some people had issues and had contacted them (SSS) whether I was a part of a group that was planning against the country”.
“We Are All Biafrans” is the title of a book written by Chido. It is a collection of essays on why Nigeria should be restructured in order to be a united country.