There was a mild drama at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, on Monday when President Muhammadu Buhari’s CSO (Chief Security Officer), Bashir Abubakar, evicted a Punch Newspaper correspondent from the Villa.
The CSO’s action was allegedly because of a story the correspondent, Olalekan Adetayo, published on Sunday about President Buhari’s ill health.
Adetayo narrates that CSO Abubakar was particularly irked and summoned him to his office for questioning on two reports he [Abubakar] considered uncomplimentary of Buhari and his administration, according to PUNCH.
Abubakar allegedly queried Adebayo on the motive behind the the lead story of SUNDAY PUNCH of April 23, 2017, titled: “Fresh anxiety in Aso Rock over Buhari’s poor health” and the correspondent’s column – Aso Rock Lens – published on Saturday, April 22, 2017, and titled: “Seat of power’s event centres going into extinction.”
Apparently miffed by the reports considered unpalatable to the image of the current administration, Abubakar withdrew the accreditation given to Lekan Adetayo as the reporter covering the Presidential Villa for his medium. He was marched out of the State House by the Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Stare Services (OC DSS).
Adetayo was earlier grilled by the CSO for about three hours and 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 effects from the council chambers. The facility also serves as a press workroom.
It was further learnt that the CSO had issued a stern warning to the expelled reporter in January this year over reports on an accidental discharge from a security personnel which injured a female official of the Villa. The PUNCH wrote:
“Abubakar asked one of his men to go and take our correspondent’s statement and revert to him.
“He thereafter directed the Officer in Charge, Department of State Services (DSS), Victor Nwafor, to withdraw our correspondent’s accreditation tag and lead him out of the premises after retrieving his personal belongings from the Press Gallery of the Council Chambers.
“Nwafor left an instruction at the Admin Reception that Adetayo should no longer be allowed into the premises after which he handed him over to another security operative who led our correspondent to where his car was parked to ensure he left the premises as instructed.”
However, the presidency has responded to the report, distancing itself from the expulsion of the reporter on the orders of Buhari’s CSO.
In an indication of a lack of cohesion in the presidency, Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, said his office was not consulted prior to the expulsion.
Speaking through his twitter handle, the presidential spokesman said: “We were not consulted in the media office by the CSO before he expelled The Punch reporter.”
Adesina said his boss was committed to press freedom, adding that “an amicable solution would be found to The Punch reporter matter. President Buhari does not intend to muzzle the media in any way.”