By; JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
Men of the Nigeria Police Force and Officials of the Environment Department of Isoko South Local Government led by the Supervisory Councillor, Mr Kenneth Ogba on Saturday morning assaulted the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ Warri Correspondents’ Chapel, Comrade Akpokona Omafuaire who is of the Vanguard Newspapers, during the sanitation exercise in Oleh Community, Isoko South Local Government Area.
It was gathered that the Police also seized the working tools including photo-camera, identification card and car keys under the guise of trying to enforce restriction of movement order on the NUJ Chairman who was on essential duty after introducing himself.
Meanwhile, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Warri Correspondents’ Chapel condemned in its entirety the assault on its chairman, Comrade Akpokona Omafuaire by men of the Nigeria Police Force attached to Oleh Police Division and official of Isoko South Local Government Environment department led by the Supervising Councillor, Mr Kenneth Ogba, during today environmental sanitation exercise at the council area.
In a statement signed by Secretary of the Union,Joe Ogbodu said the Union states vehemently that assaulting a journalist who is on essential duty like those who were deployed to cover and enforce law and order, after due introduction of self is unacceptable as we view that as attempt to gag the press from doing its job.
“Therefore, the assault on our chairman, seizure of his work tools, like camera, identification card and car key under the guise of trying to enforce restriction of movement order is condemnable, unacceptable and an affront to journalistic practice.”
“We would not condone such barefaced act from anybody who claim to be doing his duty and trying to shut down journalist who should have free access to all sources of information and the right to investigate without impediment anything that is in the public interest.”
While noting that journalists, for no reason should not suffer any prejudice in course of their duties, as such a journalist who known his right must refuse any directive or interference that is contrary to the general policy of his organisation, the Union said the attempt by the policemen and other officials of the council to manhandle our chairman because they were deployed to enforce restrictions of movement is repugnant to journalistic practice.
The Union said,”Journalists, among others like the police, members of Environmental department of council also have the right to movement and it is only a policeman who need to be schooled that would say journalist are suppose to sit at home during Environmental Sanitation exercise whereas himself is licence to stay on the street to maintain law and order.”
“A journalist who is worth his declaration to exercise his journalistic duties, doesn’t need a police permit or an accreditation by the local government council to cover sanitation exercise or being elsewhere on the road as anything could happen that is in the public interest anytime.”
In another statement, the Delta State Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Comrade Michael Ikeogwu who also expressed displeasure over the development, emphasized that he wouldn’t condone any embarrassment of journalists who are legitimately doing their job.
“Any policeman that doesn’t know that journalists monitor environmental sanitation exercise or are allowed access while such exercise are taking place like others on essential duty should go back to training”.
Meanwhile, the chapel is relieved by the prompt response of the chairman of Isoko South Local Government Council, Hon Constantine Itiako Ikpokpo whose attention was drawn to the ugly incident by the Secretary of the Chapel, Comrade Joe Ogbodu and honourably called to apologize over the incident.