SSS director-general Yusuf Bichi says Lanre Arogundade was intercepted and quizzed recently based on an old watchlist of the secret police.
Mr Bichi disclosed this when a delegation from the Nigerian chapter of the International Press Institute (IPI Nigeria) visited him in Abuja.
The secretary of IPI Nigeria, Ahmed Shekarau, in a statement on Thursday, said the visit was part of the organisation’s ongoing high-level engagements on the safety of journalists and press freedom in Nigeria
Mr Shekarau explained that Mr Arogundade was on February 10 intercepted and detained by SSS operatives upon his arrival at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, from Banjul, Gambia.
He said the director of the Lagos-based International Press Centre (IPC) went to train journalists on conflict reporting.
Speaking on the circumstances leading to the interception of the journalist on his arrival in Lagos, Mr Bichi said the SSS acted based on a decades-long watchlist, which demanded that Mr Arogundade should be quizzed whenever he returned from a foreign country.
The SSS revealed that the journalist was put on the list during his days as the president of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) between 1984 and 1985.
The SSS boss said after Mr Arogundade was initially removed, there arose another case of mistaken identity triggered by a request by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
According to him, the SSS does not intercept people willfully at airports, but does so based on requests from other government agencies who may have issues with the persons affected.
Mr Bichi emphasised the need for close collaboration between the media and the service. He said it was necessary to address misconceptions because SSS’ mission was peace, adding that the secret police is too friendly to be antagonistic of journalists.
IPI Nigeria president Musikilu Mojeed lamented rising cases of violation of the rights of journalists and declared that the IPI would demand accountability in any case of harassment of journalists in Nigeria.
“For a start, we are opening a black book to document all security personnel and other individuals involved in the harassment of journalists in Nigeria. The records so gathered will be shared periodically with embassies, and all relevant international and human rights groups across the world,” said Mr Mojeed. “We will use the records for intense advocacy with a view to getting perpetrators to be held accountable one way or another.”