The Nigerian Army has clarified the reason for the invasion of Media Trust Headquarters in Abuja and regional office in Maiduguri.
In a statement issued by the Director Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Sani Usman Kukasheka, said indeed soldiers of the Nigerian Army along with elements of Nigeria Police Force and other Security Agencies were at Abuja and Maiduguri offices of the publishing company to invite the staff of the company over its lead story on Daily Trust on Sunday publication, which divulged classified military information, thus undermining national security.
He said, the newspaper made disclosed details of planned military operations against the Boko Haram terrorists.
The disclosure of classified security information, according to the Army spokesperson, amounts to a breach of national security and run contrary to Sections 1 and 2 of the Official Secrets Act.
He added that, this disclosure afforded the Boko Haram terrorists prior notice of the Army plans and giving them early warning to prepare against the Nigerian military, thus sabotaging the planned operations and putting the lives of troops in imminent and clear danger.
He maintained that “We would like to state that the invitation of those responsible for divulging military plans was done with the best of intention in order to make them realise the import of such acts to our national security.
“We therefore advice all, particularly journalists, not to worry but engage in their responsive reportage and to be professional as the Nigerian Army has no intention of muzzling the press or jeopardising press freedom.
“We however, wish to enjoin further that they should eschew jeopardizing national security in their reportage. We would not tolerate situation where a publication would consistently side with terrorists and undermine our National institutions,” he added.
The Director Army Public Relations appeal to the media, to join hands with the Nigerian military and security forces to end terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria. We would like to further assure that the invitation is for further investigation and if need be, all those culpable of jeopardising operations security will be prosecuted by the relevant law enforcement agency.
You are please requested to disseminate this information to the public through your medium.
In a related development, The Nigerian Army has vacated the premises of the Daily Trust in Abuja, Maiduguri and Lagos, following a Federal Government order.
Garba Shehu, senior special assistant on media to President Buhari announced this on Sunday night.
He tweeted:”The Federal Government has directed the military to vacate the premises of @daily_trust and the order has been complied with.
“Issues between the military and the newspaper as they affect the coverage of the war in the Northeast will be resolved through dialogue”, he added.
Media Trust, publishers of the newspaper confirmed that the siege was lifted at 9.30pm.
The Daily Trust had reported that its Maiduguri regional office was shut down by security operatives on Sunday and its editor, Uthman Abubakar and reporter Ibrahim Sawab arrested.
Later, the newspaper also said its head office in Abuja was also invaded and computers carted away.
In what appeared to be a coordinated operation, a little while later, the Lagos Bureau Office was reportedly taken over by a combined team military and police officers.
The Media Trust did not confirm the release of its computers, in the statement by Manir Dan-Ali, the editor-in-chief.
What appeared to have triggered the military wrath was a report in the Sunday edition of the newspaper, revealing military preparations for a massive war against Boko Haram in the North East.
Military sources told newsmen that the report revealed too much and endangered the planned operation.
But in his statement, Manir Dan-Ali claimed: “We have not been told of the reason for the military operation against this newspaper but suspect it may have to do with the lead story of the Daily Trust on Sunday that dwelt on the military’s effort to retake some towns recently reported to have been lost to insurgents.
“Another clue is that during the invasion of our premises both in Maiduguri and in Abuja, the military men were asking for the reporters who wrote the story.
“Media Trust Limited condemns this unlawful act and calls on the military authorities to release the two reporters arrested in Maiduguri and return the dozens of computers that were taken from our newsroom.
“We also like to thank our colleagues in the media and all others who have been calling and supporting us in our hour of need.
“We also appreciate the efforts of some government officials who insist that there is a better way of handling relations with the media.”