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Must Read: Journalist who was detained for taking photos of GEJ’s palace narrates terrible experience

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Must Read: Journalist who was detained for taking photos of GEJ’s palace narrates terrible experience

Earlier in the week, a reporter with the Punch newspaper had the misfortune of being manhandled by security operatives for attempting to take photos of the palatial residence which ex-president Goodluck Jonathan built for himself in Otuoke, Bayelsa state.

READ: A PUNCH reporter made the ‘mistake’ of taking pictures of the palace GEJ built for himself in Otuoke

READ: The Goodluck Jonathan palace that soldiers did not want a reporter to see (Photos)

The reporter, Simon Utebor of The Punch, who has now been released after being detained, wrote an account of what truly happened.

See excerpts below:

By Simon Utebor

I set out on Thursday, May 28, 2015 to Otuoke, President Goodluck Jonathan‘s country home in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State to capture the mood and the activities taking place there ahead of Jonathan’s welcome reception.

On getting to Otuoke around 10am, I went into the streets to interview residents (and community leaders) on their preparedness to receive one of their illustrious sons whose national assignment ended on Friday after losing the March 28 presidential election.

On my way back to Yenagoa, about 11:30am, I saw construction workers renovating the walls of Jonathan’s residence fence and putting finishing touches to buildings in his sprawling estate. I thought the activities were worth capturing in pictures to illustrate the views of Jonathan’s people.

So, I decided to take pictures of the activities of the construction workers. As soon as I took some shots, some operatives of the Joint Task Force guarding the gate of the estate swooped on me. They quickly ordered me to give them the BlackBerry I used to take the shots, which I obliged without hesitation. They said I was under arrest for taking the shots. Thereafter, they ordered that all my gadgets such as my Samsung Galaxy Notes, my mobile phone (Samsung Grand Prime) and my BlackBerry be seized.

They seized my office ID card and my wristwatch. They accused me of espionage and insisted that I should tell them the names of people who sponsored me. I told them I am a journalist (State correspondent for Punch Newspaper).

All my explanations did not assuage them as they were bent on torturing me. They said I was on their wanted list for running a previous story, ‘Aso Rock exit: Jonathan to live in Island Palatial estate.’ They threatened that I would pay dearly for that report.

In the process of their rough-handling me, the rain started. I was asked to stay in the rain where I was drenched. A military police officer came and asked them to allow me into the security gate. He said the commander of 5 Batallion, Otuoke, asked me to wait for him at the security gate for interrogation. I waited for close to five hours before the military police officer came in around 5pm and said the commander directed that I should be handed over to the police for further interrogation.

They drove me to Kolo Police Station in Ogbia. When we got there, I was temporarily detained behind the counter. About 30 minutes after, the Divisional Police Officer informed me that what I was accused of was a serious matter which he said they could not handle there.

The matter was transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department, Yenagoa. That was where I was allowed to make a call across to a colleague to tell my office and other journalists of my plight.

At SCID, they took my statement. In the course of writing the statement, the police spokesman, Asinim Butswatt came and said the commissioner of police wanted to see me with the ACP SCID and the investigating police officer handling the matter.

When we got to the CP’s office, I narrated what happened. After that, he asked the IPO to go and take a comprehensive statement from me. I was taken back to the state CID again where I was subjected to rigorous interrogation. At about 8pm, the IPO gave instruction that I should be ‘properly’ detained. As usual, they asked me to remove my pair of sandals, belt and shirt and I was thrown into detention by 9pm.

Inmates in the cell were cooperative on hearing that I am a journalist. Instead of beating me, they said any time I was released, I should help them to champion their cause. They said that some of them had been detained there for months without trial.

After the banter with them, I slept off. Around 12:30am, on Friday, a senior officer came and asked that I should be brought out. They brought a bail bond and asked me to fill, which I did. Thereafter, I was released on self recognition. However, I was asked to leave all my belongings there and report at the station later in the day.

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