Nigerian secret police detain publisher

Nine armed agents of Nigeria’s Department of State Service, an elite police force, arrested Jones Abiri, the publisher of the Weekly Source tabloid newspaper, from his offices in Yenagoa, in the oil-rich southern Nigeria state of Bayelsa, on July 21, 2016, according to news reports. The operatives searched Abiri’s office and confiscated documents, the reports said.

The DSS on July 23 emailed a statement to Nigerian journalists accusing Abiri of being the leader of the Joint Revolutionary Council of the Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force, a separatist group, claiming the publisher had confessed to bombing oil pipelines, planning attacks in the capital Abuja, sending threatening messages to international oil companies, and to having been the mastermind of a hoax military coup against President Muhammadu Buhari.

Abiri’s brother, Wariebi Abiri, told CPJ by telephone that the allegations against his brother were strange because “[he was] the type of person who stays away from trouble.” Wariebi said that the family had not yet contracted a lawyer, and that no one from the family, which is based in Bayelsa State, had yet been able to see Abiri, who he said is held at DSS headquarters in Abuja.

John Angese, the Bayelsa State chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, told CPJ by telephone that Weekly Source generally publishes general-interest local news reports, though he said he had not seen a recent copy of the publication.

CPJ contacted a DSS officer by telephone who refused to discuss Abiri’s case, saying he was not authorized to speak on behalf of his employer. The DSS officer likewise declined to direct CPJ to a public spokesperson.