The Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ),Ebonyyi State Council, has urged Gov. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi to ensure the protection of lives and property of journalists operating in the state.
The chapel made the demand in a statement issued by its secretary, Mr Sampson Nwafor, on Sunday in Abakaliki.
Nwafor urged the governor and state government to protect journalists from all forms of attacks and molestations in the discharge of their statutory responsibility.
He commended the governor for lifting the ‘life ban’ he imposed on the Vanguard and Sun reporters in Ebonyi during his Wednesday, April 22 live broadcast to the people of the state.
“The attention of the Correspondents’ Chapel NUJ, Ebonyi has been drawn to a statement issued by the Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Mr Uchenna Orji, on April 25.
“The commissioner in the statement announced that Gov. Umahi, has lifted the purported ‘life ban’ on two of our members, Mr Chijioke Agwu of The Sun Newspapers and Mr Peter Okutu of Vanguard Newspaper.
“We commend the governor of Ebonyi, Chief Dave Umahi for lifting the ‘life ban’ placed on two of our members from entering Government House and other government facilities.
“We have noted the assurances of this administration to allow journalists to carry-out their constitutional duties unhindered as enshrined in Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“We noted with pride and happiness that the governor has charged his media managers to now follow ‘all due process’ in seeking redress through the leadership of NUJ and the management of media houses, should there be any misgiving on the part of government arising from any publication.
“However, the chapel wishes to remind His Excellency that the statement released by his Commissioner for Information was conspicuously silent on the issue of security of journalists in the state,” Nwafor said.
He recalled that on Wednesday, April 22 during a live broadcast, the governor made a declaration that he could no longer guarantee the security of journalists in the state.
Nwafor quoted the governor as saying: “If you think you have the pen, we have the koboko. Let’s leave the court alone.
“Ebonyi people are very angry with the press and let me warn that I won’t be able to control them or know when they unleash mayhem on you if you continue to write to create panic in the state’.”
Nwafor said, while the chapel pledges its commitment to partner the government and the people to ensure a better Ebonyi, its members are in deep fear, “considering your excellency’s position as the Chief Security Officer of the state.”
He said the chapel has resolved to ensure that Commissioner for Information and State Orientation in the State, Mr Uchenna Orji, retracted an alleged damaging statement wherein he alleged that Mr Jacob Ogodo, the Chapel’s Chairman eulogised the governor for arresting and banning two of its members for life.
“In the same vein, we wish to remind the Commissioner for Information and State Orientation that he is yet to retract the damaging statement he made, published and caused to be aired in Ebonyi Broadcasting Corporation (EBBC).
“Sir, note that the 48 hours ultimatum given to you will expire today,” Nwafor said.
It will be recalled that the governor’s pronouncement banning the journalists for life from covering government’s activities in the state attracted condemnation from the national leadership of the NUJ, Nigeria Bar Association, Nigeria Guild of Editors, human rights groups, The Guild of Corporate Online Publishers(GOCOP) among others.