Officers of Nigeria Army on Saturday arrested and detained a Voice of America reporter, Grace Alheri Abdul, who was carrying out an independent investigation into the killings in Oyigbo Local Government Area of the Rivers State.
She was arrested and detained by the soldiers at about 2pm Saturday till about 7pm when she regained freedom after several alleged interventions by key stakeholders like the United States Embassy in Nigeria, West African Journalists’ Association (WAJA) foreign and local rights groups.
While speaking with SaharaReporters after her release, the journalist said she had barely started her work when the soldiers assaulted and arrested her.
According to her, the soldiers described journalists as ‘enemies of the state and enemies of Nigeria’.
Abdul said: “I just started and first picture I took was of the burnt police station. The soldiers came in immediately and said I was snapping them. They abused me and assaulted me.
“They (Soldiers) held me for over five hours before allowing me to go. They said we are enemies of the state and enemies of Nigeria.”
In a report by Vanguard, the VOA reporter said the soldiers who held her were “all drunk and intoxicated. They told me to thank my God that I was a female journalist, and not from any of the media houses based in Port Harcourt otherwise they would have wasted me and that nothing would happen.”
The journalist stated that the soldiers asked her to apologise but she insisted that she had done nothing to warrant an apology from her. She also alleged that the security agents wanted their activities in the community to go unreported, hence, her arrest.
Oyigbo community has been tensed following a reprisal attack by the military.
The Nigerian military claimed that some members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) attacked security posts as they stole weapons, killed some security personnel and burnt police stations.
The government had claimed that six soldiers and four policemen were killed in Oyigbo.
Under the guise of arresting the perpetrators whom the military claimed lived in Oyigbo, troops were deployed to the community and they embarked on killing spree and arrest of people, mainly young men.
The activities of the military was aided by the curfew declared by Governor Nyesom Wike, who immediately invaded the community.
Some residents have told reporters soldiers shot at unarmed villagers with the intent to kill and arrested anyone who attempted to confront them.