The Presidency has distanced itself from the sudden expulsion of a Punch reporter from the presidential villa on Monday on the orders of the Chief Security Officer (CSO) to President Mohammadu Buhari, Bashir Abubakar.
In a swift reaction following the CSO’S action, Special Adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina said that his office was not consulted before the decision was taken, a development which may have pitched the presidential aides at loggerheads.
Apparently piqued by reports considered unpalatable to the image of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, his Chief Security Officer, Bashir Abubakar on Monday withdrew the accreditation given to the Punch Reporter assigned to cover the presidential villa.
The expelled reporter, Lekan Adetayo was seen being escorted by the Officer-in-Charge of DSS (OC DSS) out of the State House precinct ostensibly on the orders of the CSO.
Adetayo was earlier summoned and grilled by the CSO for about three hours and thereafter forced to write a detailed statement of his knowledge about the content of the published stories before his accreditation tag was seized.
He was later led to retrieve his working tools and other personal belongings from the Council Chambers which also serve as the Press work room.
It was learnt that the CSO had earlier issued a stern warning to the expelled Punch reporter in January 2017 over reports of an accidental discharge from a security personnel which injured a female staff of the Presidential Villa.
The reporter who spoke to State House correspondents via a telephone conversation after he was escorted out of the villa by the security operatives explained that he had on Saturday and Sunday authored two stories whose content the CSO considered injurious to the President and the nation at large.
He said the CSO was particularly irked by his (Lekan’s) Saturday and Sunday reports which said there was fresh anxiety over the state of health of President Muhammadu Buhari.
President Buhari returned to the country on March 10, 2017 after a 49-day medical sojourn in London, United Kingdom.
Recall that the administration of President Buhari on assumption of office had ordered the restoration of a Deutsche Welle, a German Radio station, correspondent, Ubale Musa who was earlier expelled by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s security aides.
Ubale was expelled for daring to ask a visiting Chadian President a question that was perceived to be embarrassing to the then government.
The action was widely criticised by Nigerians who saw the development as a clamp down on the media in the wake of the Freedom of Information (FIO) law.
Reacting to the development on his twitter handle Monday, Adesina said “we weren’t consulted in the media office by the CSO before he expelled the Punch reporter.”
While stating that President Buhari was committed to press freedom, the presidential spokesman said that “an amicable solution would be found to The Punch reporter matter,” adding “President Buhari does not intend to muzzle the media in any way.”