Chido Onumah, a Nigerian journalist and rights activist, says he was arrested by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) for wearing a T-shirt with the inscription, “We Are All Biafrans”.
Onumah was arrested at the Nnamdi Azikwe Airport in Abuja on Sunday, September 29, 2019, and detained for five hours by the secret police.
While speaking on his ordeal, Onumah said the agency described the inscription on his shirt as capable of causing disaffection in the country.
“They said some people had issues and had contacted them (DSS) whether I was a part of a group that was planning against the country,” he said.
Biafra is the name of a proposed secessionist country made up of states in the southeast area of the country who have for years protested the mistreatment of the region.
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a popular pro-Biafra group, was designated a terrorist organisation in 2017, and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, is wanted for treasonable felony.
In responding to Onumah’s claim on Monday, September 30, DSS spokesperson, Peter Afunaya, said the journalist wasn’t arrested but was rather “engaged in an interaction”.
He said Onumah was made aware of the fact that the inscription was capable of undermining public order and national security.
“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,“ Afunanya said.
The DSS said it acted within the confines of its mandate and that Onumah himself appreciated the gesture, and pledged not to engage in activities that may cause disaffection in the country.
“It is not out of place for concerned security agencies to have sought clarification from a traveler concerning a subject of security interest,” Afunanya noted.