US-based professor protests passport seizure by security agents
| By Ifedayo Adebayo
January 10, 2011 08:04AM
Officials of the State Security Service on Saturday evening briefly detained United States-based author and columnist, Okey Ndibe, at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, on his return to the country. The security agents, who later released Mr. Ndibe after holding him for about two and half hours at the airport office of the SSS without giving a reason, held on to his American and Nigerian passports and ordered Mr. Ndibe to come to their office on Monday for a meeting with the agency’s director.
The spokesperson of the SSS, Marilyn Ogar, refused to comment on the issue when she was contacted.
“I am presently at a public place and you want me to comment?” she said. “I can’t comment on that, because I don’t know you and you don’t know me, she said.”
Mr. Ndibe, a professor of English at Brown University, Rhode Island and Trinity College, Connecticut, United States of America, said the seizure of his passports was a throwback to the days of military dictatorships when perceived critics of government were routinely harassed.
He recounted how he was taken to the first floor of the SSS office at the airport and kept there for a while as his detainers exchanged phone calls with their superiors.
“They kept me there for sometime. Then the supervisor said to me, ‘Do you have another passport?’ I told him I have an American passport. He said I should give it to him. He already had my Nigerian passport so he took my American passport. He did a few things on the computer and then he began to make calls. I don’t know who he was calling and then they would call him back. When they called him back, he would take the phone outside of his office and speak outside. After a while, he said to me, ‘Are you a journalist?’ I said to him that I’m a professor of English in two American universities, but that I write a weekly column for a Nigerian newspaper. Then he made more calls. So basically, I was held up there for about two and half hours, at the end of which he gave me a note and said I should show up at their office on Kingsway Road tomorrow Monday, to meet with the director.”
Mr. Ndibe said he was allowed to go after the officers asked where he would be staying and his phone number.
“… They have my American passport,” he said. “I don’t think the Nigerian government should seize the passport. I think it is a great diplomatic error to take a passport that is issued by another country.
“When Yar’Adua was alive, towards the end of 2008, I received a tipoff from a security person that I shouldn’t come to Nigeria; that the Yar’Adua government had declared me an enemy of the state and that the SSS had instructions to pick me up at any airport in Nigeria. So when Jonathan came to America last year, two of his aides spoke to me. I told them that the Jonathan government was hounding people of conscience who were writing their opinions and they assured me that my name and everybody else’s have been removed from the SSS list of wanted citizens.”
Mr. Ndible said that he was looking forward to hearing from the government about why he was detained at the airport and why his passports were taken away.
“I hope that I will be given details of my alleged crimes against Nigeria when I meet with the director tomorrow,” he said.
Two organisations of Nigerians in Diaspora, the Nigeria Peoples Parliament in Diaspora and the Nigerian Liberty Forum, condemned Mr. Ndibe’s detention, demanding that his Nigerian passport be returned to him and his freedom of movement fully restored.
The organisations said that if the government did not honour their requests, “we shall commence an all-out global campaign against the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan and the SSS.”
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