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Punch reporter recalls his encounter with Buhari's CSO

Punch reporter recalls his encounter with Buharis CSO

Olalekan Adetayo, The Punch reporter expelled briefly from Aso Rock by President Buhari's CSO has narrated his encounter that led to his expulsion from the President's abode

Updating his reporter's diary, Adetayo said his problem started after he arrived at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday, April 24.

''I received a message that the Chief Security Officer to the President, Bashir Abubakar, would like to see me in his office.

''What came to my mind immediately was that it was the presidency's media office that interfaces with journalists and not the CSO. I felt I should inform the presidential spokesmen before honouring the strange invitation,'' Adetayo wrote.

He went ahead to inform Adesina and the senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, adding that Adesina advised him to honour the invitation and update him of developments.

He continued: ''On getting to the CSO's office, he was initially polite. He offered me a seat and asked how I was doing and I replied I was fine. He then first confronted me with my column, Aso Rock Lens, published on Saturday, April 22, 2017.

''He was angry with one of the items in the column titled 'Seat of power's event centres going into extinction'. In that piece, I highlighted some places in the Presidential Villa that hitherto had hosted high-profile events. I wrote that lately, events had not been held inside the halls. He said I was insinuating that government had collapsed in Nigeria.

''The CSO then brought out a copy of April 23, 2017 edition of SUNDAY PUNCH. He was visibly angry about the lead story titled 'Fresh anxiety in Aso Rock over Buhari's poor health'. That story was about how the president had not been seen in public in the last two weeks except when he made brief appearances at the mosque inside the Presidential Villa for Juma'at services last Friday and penultimate Friday.''

Adetayo said the CSO queried the motive behind the two stories, even as he said the president was free to rule the country from wherever he liked.

The CSO told the reporter that the stories were meant to portray the president as incapacitated and that it had to do with the politics of 2019.

He also promised him he would take him to the official residence of the president to see him and then tell him (the CSO) if Buhari was incapacitated, but never kept to his word.

''Abubakar added that if God had sanctioned it that Buhari would rule the country for eight years, no man could stop him,'' Adetayo said.

He continued: ''The CSO thereafter directed one of his men to take my statement and revert to him. The man took me to his office. I wrote in the statement that I had no ulterior motive in writing the stories in question. I was updating presidential spokesmen of developments as earlier agreed. The gentleman took my statement and I returned to the CSO's office.

''On getting there, Abubakar asked the Officer-in-Charge of the Department of State Services, Victor Nwafor, to seize my accreditation tag. He said he should escort me to retrieve my personal belongings from the Press Gallery and then leave instructions with security operatives that I should not be allowed access into the Presidential Villa again.

''Nwafor carried out the assignment dutifully. He passed the message to the security officials at the admin reception and then handed me over to another security operative who he instructed to do the same thing at the Pilot Gate before escorting me to where I parked my car to ensure that I left the premises immediately.

''I was driven from there in a security vehicle. At the pilot gate, the gentleman assembled all security operatives there and delivered the message to them. I caught one of them, a policeman, snapping my photograph with his telephone handset and I protested. I told him I am not a criminal and he has no right to snap me. He was apologetic and attempted to show me the handset to prove that he had deleted the picture but I told him I was not interested in his claim.

''I was driven in the same security van to where I parked my car and I drove out of the presidential villa from there.''

Reacting to the situation, Adesina said the presidency was not consulted before the action was taken. He assured Nigerians and the media that President Buhari is committed to press freedom.

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