Thursday, September 17, 2009

Intelligence agency personnel visit free expression organisation, director goes into hiding

(MRA/IFEX) - On 8 September 2009 at about 1:30 p.m. (local time), two agents from the State Security Service (SSS), Nigeria’s intelligence agency, visited the offices of Development Dynamics, a freedom of expression NGO based in Owerri, in Imo State, southeastern Nigeria.

They told Mr. Callistus Nwachukwu, the organisation's administrative officer, that they came as a result of Development Dynamics' bi-weekly interactive radio programme "Democracy Forum" aired on Radio Nigeria Heartland FM in Owerri on 7 September, with the theme "Democracy and the Banking Industry in Nigeria".

They claimed that they had been instructed to monitor the organisation's activities and requested to see Mr. Jude Ohanele, the organisation’s program director, who was not in the office at the time.

Mr. Nwachukwu called Mr. Ohanele on his cell phone and he spoke with one of the SSS agents who gave his name as Nna Stephen. The agent reportedly insisted that they needed to interrogate Mr. Ohanele in person on the activities of Development Dynamics as he could not be questioned over the phone.

Mr. Ohanele said later in a statement that: "In recent times we have noticed that our office is being monitored as we see strange faces around the neighbourhood once in a while looking in the direction of our office. Neighbours also informed us of visitors visiting their premises to ask to be directed to our office but who ended up not visiting our office despite being directed."

In a telephone interview with Mr. Ayode Longe, Media Rights Agenda’s senior program officer, Mr. Ohanele disclosed that he will be staying away from his office until he is able to determine why he is being sought. He added that the SSS officials said they had instructions from the Abuja headquarters of the SSS to go to the office of Development Dynamics to interrogate him.

The organisation called on well meaning individuals and groups to help it demand that the SSS back down from disrupting its lawful free expression activities or arresting and detaining its staff.

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