Nigeria State Security Service (SSS) Threatens Punch Newspaper Journalist


On May 27, 2013, Nigeria’s intelligence agency, the State Security Service (SSS), detained Mr. Segun Olatunji, the Ogun State Correspondent of The Punch newspaper in south west Nigeria.

Mr. Olatunji said he was tricked by a fellow journalist, Mr. Kehinde Akinyemi, who is the Chairman of the Correspondents Chapel of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the State.  He said Mr. Akinyemi called him on the phone, informing him that the State Director of the SSS, Mr. Joseph Okpo, wanted to see both of them.

Mr. Olatunji said, “At exactly 8.04am on Monday [May 27, 2013], the Chairman of the Correspondent Chapel of the Ogun State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Mr. Kehinde Akinyemi, called me on the telephone, informing me that the State Director of the SSS, Mr. Joseph Okpo, wanted to ‘see us’.”

“When I asked him whether he knew the reason for the SSS director’s invitation to ‘us’, he told me he just wanted to ‘see the two of us’.

“Akinyemi then asked that we meet at the Iwe Irohin secretariat of the NUJ from where we would proceed to the SSS office located in Oke-Mosan by 11.00am.”

Mr. Olatunji said that Mr. Akinyemi led him to the office of the SSS without telling him what the mission was all about.

Upon arrival at the SSS office about 12.15pm in company with Mr. Akinyemi, Mr. Olatunji was led into Mr. Okpo’s office, who after asking him questions about his academic qualifications and work experience, said he would have to wait behind to assist the agency over some issues “bordering on national security”.

Mr. Olatunji said “The moment we got to the gate house of the SSS office, I smelt a rat in the way we were attended to by the officer manning the gate. While he gave Akinyemi the visitor’s tag, he told me I did not need one.

“The SSS state director almost immediately started interrogating me in the presence of Akinyemi, who merely looked on.”

The SSS director and his deputy, Yau Umar interrogated Mr. Olatunji over a story published by the Sunday Punch  in which two members of Nigeria’s ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the state made allegations that Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo maintains a killer squad.

The SSS questioned his relationship with Mr. Segun Seriki and Mr. Richard Odusanya, the two persons whom the story said made the allegations against former president Obasanjo.  He was also interrogated over his relationship with the Sunday Punch Editor, Ms. Toyosi Ogunseye, as well as Mr. Allwell Okpi and Mr. Leke Bayewu.

Mr. Olatunji was then taken to the office of the deputy director under the instruction of the SSS director to extract a statement from him. At the office of the SSS deputy director, a laptop was provided and Mr. Olatunji was coerced to open his e-mails from where some of the reports he did in the past were copied and printed after which he was asked to write a statement.

He was told to write another statement in the office of the Principal Staff Officer after which a “profiling form” was given to him to fill.

Pictures of his face and backview were taken as well as his finger prints. He was then returned to the SSS deputy director’s office where he was asked to write a third statement.

At about 7.30pm, he was taken to an unlit room on the ground floor of the SSS office where he met two other persons who were in handcuffs. Shortly after, food was brought for the two people, but none for the journalist.

Mr. Olatunji said: “It would be interesting to note that I had yet to take my breakfast as at the time we went into the SSS office and I was not allowed in the room to take even a drop of water throughout the more than eight hours I spent in the SSS office.”

At about 8pm, Mr. Akinyemi, who had initially lured Mr. Olatunji to the SSS office, walked in followed shortly later by the NUJ chairman, Mr. Wole Sokunbi and both met with the SSS director. At 8.15pm, Mr. Olatunji was taken to the SSS directors office were Mr. Okpo asked if he would like the NUJ chairman and Mr. Akinyemi to bail him.

He was eventually released at about 8.20pm with a stern warning about his “uncooperative and arrogant demeanour.”

He then asked the NUJ chairman and correspondent chapel chairman to ensure that Mr. Olatunji reported to the SSS office at 11.00am on 28 May 2013.