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Missing General: Soldiers detain PUNCHman, others for 28 hours

Published by on October 9th, 2018.


PUNCH newspapers correspondent in Plateau State , Friday Olokor , has been arrested by some soldiers in Jos, the state capital . Olokor, who had reportedly gone to eat at a restaurant, Anne Breeze Restaurant , in the Rayfield area of Jos, was picked up by masked military officials around 9 . 15 pm on Saturday . PUNCH Metro gathered that the soldiers, who were attached to a special quad in Maiduguri , Borno State , were recently deployed in the state by the Chief of Army Staff , Lt . Gen. Yusuf Buratai , over the ethnic and religious crisis in Plateau State. The soldiers were also reportedly involved in the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of a retired army General , Mohammed Alkali. Alkali went missing on Monday , September 3 , 2018 ; a day after some gunmen swooped on Dura – Du in the Jos South Local Government Area of Plateau State and killed 13 persons . Some people had been arrested by the military before Olokor was picked up at the restaurant together with 36 other residents of the area. The 49 – year – old said he initially thought that the soldiers were bandits , adding that despite identifying himself with his PUNCH identity card , he was thrown into a truck . He said , “ On Saturday, October 6 , 2018 , I went to buy potatoes and eggs at the popular Anne Breeze Restaurant . The waiters had not brought my food when soldiers ( about 30 of them) in two trucks , all masked and armed , swooped on the place, shot indiscriminately and arrested everybody. “ My initial feeling was that they were either Fulani herdsmen (who had been a thorn in the flesh of the Berom ethnic group) , fake soldiers in military uniform or Boko Haram insurgents , because many of them were masked . “ Passersby were not spared ; women and other residents of the area were arrested . I identified myself as a journalist with The PUNCH , but they did not listen to me; they refused to see my ID card . We were 37 victims of the invasion ; 28 men and nine women . ” The reporter noted that the raid was led by one Captain Rabiu of the 3 Division of the Nigerian Army Headquarters in Rukuba Barracks , Jos . He said while two elderly men in their mid – 70 s , including a retired Chief Superintendent of Police , Chuwang Choji, and his son , were arrested , a serving Army General who was “ drinking with a young woman” was spared. PUNCH Metro learnt that the government , due to the crisis in the state , had imposed a curfew from 10 pm till 6 am . “ The invading soldiers also picked waiters at another drinking joint called Big Daddy and many other persons by roadsides who were trekking to their homes . “ Three persons who came as wedding guests from Makurdi and Keffi , including the Information and Protocol Officer of Nasarawa State University , Keffi , Abraham Ekpo , were unlucky . They were accommodated in a hotel in the vicinity of Steffans Night Club and had just decided to take a walk when they were arrested . “ As the soldiers took us away, we were told to put off our telephones . The law was that you don ’ t talk, you don ’ t move and even when faced with the call of nature , you are in trouble . “ All the men were driven to the 3 Division of the Nigerian Army in Rukuba Barracks , Jos, and kept in an uncompleted building . They confiscated all our belongings , including telephones , money, ATM cards and house keys. “ Many of the victims could not take their cars and personal property . We had no access to our families; I could not communicate with my family , editors , friends and colleagues because they took our phones , ” he added . Olokor said the soldiers insisted that the residents must reveal where the missing general was . “ All the male suspects in captivity were chained in pairs, hands and legs. If one wants to answer the call of nature , his partner must go with him , under the tight security of a soldier . “ The nine women among us , including the owner of Anne Breeze Restaurant , were kept in a separate place as a form of preferential treatment . The rest of us were in the uncompleted building , which was manned by heavily armed men of the military police . “ The room the 28 of us were kept cannot take 10 persons ordinarily . We were bitten by mosquitoes . Throughout our stay , one young soldier kept issuing threats . “Before we slept , they gave us the opportunity to go out to urinate ; but at bedtime, that grace stopped. We had to urinate in a plastic container . A very old Plateau native urinated more than 10 times before daybreak. Baba said he was sick and on drugs which had been responsible for the constant need to urinate . On one occasion , he had to spill it on the ground as he did not get quick permission , ” Olokor added . The victim said the following day , he was called and interviewed about “ five times , ” adding that the soldiers took his photos and house address and those of the other detainees . He said his pleas that he was a journalist and had only gone to eat fell on deaf ears. “ They never answered me until I met a responsible officer during one of the interview sessions . I told him that I was working on the press statement sent to me by the Deputy Director of Army Public Relations in 3 Division Nigerian Army , Col. Kayode Ogunsanya, when the invaders struck . “ He instructed that they should get my phone; he saw the details of my chat with Ogunsanya and he said I should wait . “ When Ogunsanya came , he confirmed that we had been communicating . He was dazed that despite introducing myself , they still held me. He promised to ‘ do something . ’ “ Despite that , I and others were still held for over seven hours before our eventual freedom , ” Olokor said . The Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Plateau State , Mr Paul Jatau, condemned the action of the soldiers. He threatened that if nothing was done to redress the wrong , journalists in the state would refrain from covering activities of the military . He said , “ We have been working with the military as partners and unfortunately they chose one of our own for maltreatment even after he introduced himself as a journalist . We condemn what they did and we have told them in a statement that if something is not done , we may ask our members to suspend coverage of the military activities. ” The Deputy Director of the Army Public Relations , 3 Division , Ogunsanya, said Olokor was at the wrong place at the wrong time He said , “ You know there is curfew in Jos. We are looking for the retired army officer and where he went to eat was close to the scene. There was a raid in the early hours of the curfew ; two bars were raided at the same time . He was unfortunate to be in one of them. “ He was picked up and taken to the barracks . When I was told that a journalist was there , I asked them to release him . I even gave him an escort that saw him off . ”

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