President Jonathan’s Guards Harass, Detain PUNCH Journalist In Bayelsa

imageSoldiers guarding Goodluck Jonathan’s house in Otueke in Bayelsa, on Thursday harassed and arrested a PUNCH journalist, Simon Utebor, for taking pictures of the sprawling edifice.

Utebor, who is the newspaper’s correspondent in the state, had arrived in the sleepy community in the early hours of Thursday to ascertain the level of preparedness ahead of Jonathan’s homecoming on Friday after six years at Aso Rock as President of the country. While on the mission, the journalist was arrested by men of the Joint Task Force operating in the area, who handed him over to the Bayelsa police.

Work was still ongoing on the building when Utebor visited and there was heavy security presence in the area ahead of Jonathan’s arrival later on Friday after he would have handed over power to Muhammadu Buhari, the country’s new president.

The spokesperson for the Joint Task Force, Isa Ado, a lieutenant colonel, while confirming the incident, initially said an order for the release of the journalist had been issued.

But it was learnt that Utebor was transferred to the state CID where he made a statement on the incident.

Despite his explanations that he was a journalist on an official assignment, Utebor was thrown into a cell by the police operatives.

A journalist with one of the national dailies, who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, expressed surprise that Utebor could be clamped into the cell when the impression given by the police was that he would be taken to the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Paul Okafor, after making a statement.

“I was surprised to hear that Utebor had been pushed into the cell. That was not what they told me initially. When I spoke with Utebor, he said he would soon be allowed to go, but he is in the cell as I speak with you.

“The police gave me their assurance that he would soon be released and that it was not something we should worry about. But that has not happened as of 10.07pm that I’m speaking with you now. Utebor was only trying to snap those constructing the fence of a building before he was arrested by soldiers.

“They arrested him and took him to Kolo Police Station in Ogbia Local Government Area. From there, they took him (Utebor) to the Bayelsa State Police Command. The IPO took him to the state CID where he was asked to write a statement.

“Instead of the IPO to take Utebor back to the CP around 6pm, they detained him and later pushed into the cell,” the journalist said.

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