The last has not been heard of a detained Journalist, Mr. Jones Abiri. Until his arrest on the 21st of July 2016, he was the publisher of the Weekly Source Newspapers in Yenogoa, Bayelsa state. On the said date, officers of the Department of State Services stormed his office, conducted a search and Abiri was taken away without an arrest warrant. Two days after the arrest, the DSS confirmed his arrest as a member of a known Militant group operating in the Niger Delta region, a position countered by the state National Union of Journalists Chairman Mr. Angese who said he knows Jones as a journalist and was fortunate to witness his arrest by the DSS officials.
Two years after his arrest, his family, the NUJ and the civil society are worried about his continued incarceration. At the moment the DSS has denied Mr. Abiri access to his family, lawyer and doctor. The case which has taken a new turn with the entrant of international civil society organizations that seeks the protection of journalists has elicited condemnation for the federal government of Nigeria. Like the DSS, Spokesman to President Muhammadu Buhari, Garba Shehu at the recently concluded International Press Institute program in Abuja also declared that no Journalist is in DSS detention that the Jones in DSS detention is a “guest” of the secret police due to acts of militancy. An allegation rejected by civil society organizations.
The DSS since 2016 has not paraded Mr. Abiri nor arraigned him in court for the said offence as a result brewing suspicion that he might have died in the DSS custody. At this juncture, it is important to state that the DSS by its continued detention without arraignment of Jones Abiri is giving the Buhari Presidency a bad image of a government that has no place or consideration for the rule of law. The statement tendered in court by the DSS as the “confessional” statement of Jones is contestable as the man never showed up in court to confirm he personally wrote the statement.
One of the ethics of Democracy is free speech but in a situation where Journalists feel unsafe in the discharge of their duties, then the government is expected to check itself. At the moment the state of Jones Abiri is unknown. Is he dead or alive?