Agents of the State Security Service (SSS) on September 17, 2003 expelled Cyril Mbah, correspondent of The Monitor newspaper assigned at the Aso Rock, Nigeria’s seat of government, from the presidential villa.
According to Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)-Nigeria, the SSS provided no explanation for the decision. It is believed, however, that the action was in connection with an article in Mbah’s column published in the Sunday September 14, 2003 edition of The Monitor captioned, “OBJ Compels Ministers to Pray”, which was thought to have disparaged the President.
On Monday September 15, 2003, President Olusegun Obasanjo, while receiving in audience, a delegation of the Ogun State Council of Obas, enquired about journalist Mbah. Other journalists covering the meeting replied that Mbah was not at the Council of Chambers, venue of the event.
The SSS subsequently invited Mbah to their office where they seized his press accreditation card. According to Mbah, “They asked me if I am Cyril Mbah and I answered in the affirmative. They asked me to surrender my accreditation card.”
Two operatives then drove him in a Peugeot 504 station wagon out of the presidential villa, explaining that they had been “instructed to escort [him] out of the State House.” “You should not be seen anywhere within the premises henceforth,” they warned.
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is troubled over the recent spate of security intimidation and apprehension of media practitioners in Nigeria. It suggests an insidious but growing intolerance of critical opinions by the government of President Obasanjo.
On August 30, 2003, Tunde Akinleye, a photojournalist with the Daily Independent, was brutally assaulted, to the point of unconsciousness, by 12 mobile police officers belonging to Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s security detail.
Again, on June 1, 2003 police assaulted journalists Funmi Komolafe and Rotimi Ajayi, Labour Editor and reporter respectively, of The Vanguard newspaper, George Oshodi, photographer for the Associated Press (AP) news agency and Ola Awoniyi, local correspondent for the Agence France-Presse (AFP).