The Department of State Service (DSS) has denied arresting Chido Onumah, journalist and activist, saying he was invited for wearing a T-shirt with the inscription: “We Are All Biafrans”.
The inscription on the shirt is the exact title of a book Onumah authored three years ago.
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In the book, the author highlighted some of the challenges of the country and made a strong case for restructuring.
He also wrote on the need to strengthen the factors uniting Nigeria.
However, on Sunday evening when he arrived at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja after a trip to Europe, he was accosted by DSS operatives.
The action of the secret police had sparked an outrage. Onumah was released hours later.
Reacting to the comments which trailed the invitation of Onumah, Peter Afunanya, spokesman of the agency, said the activist was grilled by the DSS over “an act capable of undermining public order”.
He said Onumah could have been attacked by a mob if he had worn the T-shirt into town.
“The Department of State Service (DSS) wishes to make clarifications regarding media reports that Dr Chido Onumah was arrested by the Service. To set the records right, Onumah was never arrested by the Service. He was rather engaged in an interaction during which an act of his capable of undermining public order and national security was explained to him,” Afunanya said.
“On his arrival at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on 29th September, 2019, it was discovered that Onumah wore a T-shirt with WE ARE ALL BIAFRANS inscription on it. With credible intelligence that he might be a subject of mob attack if allowed to go into town in same cloth, the Service invited him and drew his attention to the implications of his probable (un)intended action.
“It was strongly believed that an attack on Onumah would have sparked ethno-religious reprisals with dire consequences for law and order and public safety in the country. He understood the issues and pledged not to engage in activities that may cause disaffection in Abuja and the country at large. He subsequently removed the cloth with the inciting symbols and inscriptions and agreed not to use it.
“The interaction between Onumah and the Service held in a convivial atmosphere. He appreciated the courtesies extended to him. Afterwards, the Servcie arranged for him to go back to his accommodation in town.
“It is not out of place for concerned security agencies to have sought clarification from a traveller concerning a subject of security interest.”
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Onumah is a known critic of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari. Many had linked the action of the agency to the stance of the activist.