By: PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
An Akwa Ibom State journalist working for a local tabloid, Mary Ekere who has been in incarceration on the order of the Chairman of the State Agency on Waste Management for taking photographs she found news worthy, has regained her freedom.
Mary who works with The Post Newspaper, gained freedom after journalists in the state led by their chairman, Mr. Amos Etuk stormed the Magistrate Court where she was arraigned on flimsy charges of “obstruction of duties of the officials of the agency” and demanded for her release.
The Magistrate upon seeing journalists, among them lawyers who laid siege at the court premises as early as 7am on Wednesday demanding her bail, reluctantly signed the bail bond and ordered that Mary should be released from the Prison Custody.
Mary was reportedly arrested and jailed on the orders of the chairman of the agency, Prince Ikim for allegedly taking photographs of event at Ibom Plaza in Uyo, the state capital.
The incidence witnessed the helpless journalist, Mary Ekere being assaulted, beaten mercilessly, stripped naked and dragged into a waiting vehicle by thugs working for the Chairman of the Agency.
According to Mary, she was passing by the Ibom Plaza when she noticed unwholesome activities of task-force operators reportedly working for Ikim. She said that they were seizing some goods belonging to traders making use of the Plaza area, so she decided to take some pictures of the acts.
According to her, before she could know what happened, those task-force caught hold of her, beat her up and stripped her naked before throwing her into a waiting vehicle, where she was then driven to their office at Itam.
She added that they only spent few minutes at their office before she was taken to Sanitation Court, off Nkemba Street where they met the absence of the Magistrate.
She said that when they arrived at the court premises, Ikim boys put a call across to the Magistrate who ordered that Mary be remanded in Prison custody that she won’t be able to make it to the court that day.
On Tuesday September 17, Mary said that she was brought to the court by the Prison guards in their vehicle where she pleaded not guilty to the charges leveled against her before the court.
She was then granted bail, but Prince Ikim insisted that Mary be sent back to the Prison even after meeting the bail conditions. She was then taken back to prison custody.
Upon getting the information of Mary arrest and detention, the Akwa Ibom State chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Comrade Amos Etuk had put a call across to Prince Ikim that one of his members was being arrested by his men.
Prince Ikim, however assured the NUJ chairman of his readiness to resolve the matter, promising that Mary will be released. But our reporter reliably gathered that Mary was not released as promised by Prince Ikim until Wednesday.
One of the judiciary workers who confided in our reporter said that that’s how Prince Ikim always behaved. He said that the activities of those thugs working for Ikim are becoming alarming these days, noting that they bring all sorts of innocent people to be arraigned on daily basis with frivolous charges.
He added that whenever Ikim attention is drawn to the uncivil activities by his boys, Ikim will promise to talk to his boys, but only to be experiencing something terrible than that the next day.
Narrating what they went through while Mary was in incarceration, Mary’s father, Mr. Idongesit Ekere said he was shocked by the activities of Prince Ikim and his boys, describing it as an unfortunate as well as abuse of public office.
His words, “We waited from morning till afternoon for the Magistrate, who came in the afternoon. When she was arraigned, she pleaded not guilty to those charges and was granted bail. They asked me to pay N10,000, which I did and filled the bail form they gave with my passport.
“The Court Bailiff said he was coming to inspect my house, but later came to tell me that Mary would not be released again as promised that the Magistrate had gone without signing the bail form.
“So Mary was taken back to prison custody, I took food to give to her at the prison, but they denied me access to her. They said I should give money that they will give her to buy food, which I did.
However, the unwholesome act the officials of Prince Ikim led agency against the journalist was doing her legitimate duties have been widely condemned across the state how urged that the taskforce be disband while its chairman be sacked.
Concerned public called on NUJ in the state to seek redress in court to serve as a deterrent to others and save the corporate image of the state, especially now that the state government is trying to woo in investors to the state.