ATTACKS ON THE PRESS IN APRIL 1999
Nwodo Attacks Daily Times, New Nigerian Staff
In a move that seem to intimidate and dare the resolve of journalists and
other workers of the government-owned Daily Times and New Nigerian
newspaper, Information Minister, Chief John Nwodo (Jnr), on April 1,
accused workers of the organizations of being responsible for the
misfortunes of the organizations.
Speaking to reporters at the presidential wing of the
Murtala Muhammed International airport, the minister said that his
ministry has no money to give the two companies to pay the backlog of
salaries owned their staff.
Chief Nwodo said that the subvention is not in the
ministry’s budget and that there is nothing he could do to address the
plight of the workers, mostly journalists, whose salaries have remained
unpaid for several months despite ultimatum to go on strike.
According to the minister, “they are not on the budget of
the federal government. The workers have contributed in bringing down
these organization to what they are now.”
It could be recalled that the Nigerian Union of Journalists
(NUJ) had on March 15, at its 44th Anniversary Celebrations of the birth
of the union, held in Ilorin, issued a 30-day ultimatum of the Federal
Government within which to pay the back log of salaries owed its members
in the Daily Times, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), and
Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
The minister said, however, that the two companies Daily
Times and New Nigerian newspapers were being prepared for privatization,
adding that he had applied for a loan from the privatization council to
enable him prepare the companies for privatization.
Nwodo said: “I have already made an application to the
privatization council to give us a bridging loan to revive them before we
can sell them. But mark you, no government gives money first for payment
of salary. The money is intended to revive the place.
“If we are able to get the money to revive it, and generate
sufficient profit to pay themselves, that is fine. If not everything that
has exhausted its life must die.”
Meanwhile, the one-month ultimatum earlier given the
management of the organizations by the National Secretariat of the NUJ
expired on April 15 but in a move that seem to indicate preparedness to
negotiate by the Daily Times journalists, the local NUJ Chapel Chairman,
Mr. Emmanuel Ekpeyong issued a fresh ultimatum which expired on April 27.
Speaking at a news conference held at the NUJ Press Club,
Shomolu, Lagos, on April 14, the journalists appealed yet again to the
Federal Government to make money available to pay the nine months salaries
arrears owed them.
Meanwhile, journalists of the South-West zone of the New
Nigerian, unable to bear the situation anymore, on April 19 embarked on a
work-to-rule action. The workers are also urging the management to
implement without delay the new minimum wage to civil servants.
They decried the discriminatory attitude of the management
of the newspapers. They alleged that their Kaduna counterparts have been
paid up-to-date and that they will not go back to work until their
salaries are paid.
Soldiers Assault Post Express, ThisDay Reporters
To journalists, Tunde Sanni and Kayode Abdulwahab, the
Kwara State correspondents of the Post Express and ThisDay newspapers
respectively, were on April 7, assaulted, beaten and barred by armed
soldiers attached to the house of the late General Tunde Idiagbon, in
Ilorin, Kwara State.
Journalists, numbering eight from different media houses,
were at the General’s house to await the arrival of the President-elect,
General Olusegun Obasanjo, who was scheduled to pay a condolence visit to
the family of General Idiagbon.
Wielding uncorked guns and shouting “you can not all
enter,” the stern looking soldiers denied the journalists entry into the
compound when General Obasanjo arrived.
An attempt to enter the compound by Sanni and Abdulwahab
angered the soldiers who descended on them and beat them mercilessly while
others were driven away.
It could not be immediately ascertained what informed the
hostility of the guards, but some sources claimed that the family was
aversed to the increasing publicity it has been receiving since the
passage of General Idiagbon.
National Light Reporter Flogged, Detained
A journalist with the Anambra State government-owned
newspaper National Light, Mr. Nnamdi Chukwujindu, was on April 12 flogged
and detained by security men in the Government House on the orders of Ft.
Lt. Chukwu the aide-de-camp to the Military Administrator, Wing Commander
The flogging and detention was in connection with a story
written by the journalist on the magnitude of violence in the warring
communities of Umuleri and Aguleri in Anambra East Local Government. The
intertribal war has claimed over 500 lives, including that of a freelance
journalist, Mr. Fidelix Ikwuebe, who was kidnapped and murdered in cold
blood by the people of Umuleri, one of the warring communities.
Reports have it that the State Military Administrator, who
felt enraged by the report of a journalist being among those so far killed
in the war, ordered his ADC to teach Nnamdi a lesson.
Reacting to the incident the Anambra State council of the
Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) demanded an apology from the ADC.
The council in a press statement issued in Awka, the
Anambra State capital, by its chairman and secretary, Messrs Victor
Agusibo and Mike Afah, roundly condemned the actions of the aide-de-camp.
The statement described the action as “abhorrent not just to civilized
conduct and disciplined behaviour, but a gross violation of the core
principle of the present administration of General Abubakar.”
Akwa Ibom State Government Vitimises Journalists
The local chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ),
of The Pioneer, the Akwa Ibom state-owned newspaper, was on April 15,
forced to petition the secretary to the state government alleging
victimization by the state government and threatening to go on strike.
According to the journalists, the state government has refused to pay its
members the new harmonized public salary structure and allowances.
Along with the NUJ, the two other unions in the
organization, the National Union of Printing, Publishing and Paper
Products Workers (NUPPROW), and the National Union of Civil Service
Typist, Stenographers and Allied Staff (NUCSTSAS), also threatened to go
on strike if the state government failed to pay them accordingly.
The journalists and other workers’ grouse stemmed from the
fact that while other categories of workers of the state government have
been paid, workers in the state-owned media organizations were yet to
Meanwhile, the state government may have withdrawn its
subvention to the state’s newspaper corporation as a cost-saving measure
towards the implementation of the minimum wage.
Consequently, since mid-April, the bi-weekly tabloid, The
Pioneer and Weekend pioneer, published by the corporation, have been off
Reliable sources at the corporation said that the
non-appearance of the publications was due to lack of newsprint.
According to one of the staff, “before the stored newsprint
was exhausted, the military administrator of the state was duly informed
by the management.”
He disclosed that until money is released for another bulk
purchase of newsprint, “we will continue to be off the streets. I only
hope he will not sack us for redundancy.”
The alleged withdrawal of subvention came to light when the
Administrator, Group Captain Eyepeiyah Ebiye said in response to a request
for money, that if he must pay the minimum wage, other things must wait.
Government House sources also quoted him as saying that
after 11 years of its establishment, the corporation should be able to
cater for its financial needs.
Police Arrest Vanguard Journalist
The police on April 18 arrested a Lagos journalist, Mr.
Lanre Arogundade, a senior member of the Editorial board of Vanguard and a
factional leader in the crisis presently rocking the Lagos State Council
of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ).
Arogundade was arrested by two detectives from the
Anti-Robbery Section of the Oyo State Crime Investigation Department (CID)
who identified themselves as Samuel Akpoture and Mr. Peters. He was
arrested on allegation of complicity in the assassination of Mrs. Bolade
Fassasi, a journalist and former Treasurer in the Council between 1995 and
1997. Fassasi was murdered by yet unknown assailants on April 7 at Ibadan
the Oyo State capital.
Arogundade, before he left with the policemen, sent a note
to NUJ officials. The note reads: “I believe this is another frame-up by
my political opponents in Lagos NUJ.
“The policemen claimed they were investigating the killing
of Bolade Fassasi, former treasurer of the council with which I had
nothing to do absolutely whatsoever.”
Freelance Journalist Kidnapped, Murdered
A freelance journalist, Mr. Fidelis Ikwuebe, was on April
18 kidnapped and later murdered by one of the two warring communities in
Anambra East Local Government area of Anambra State.
The journalist based in Onitsha who contributed to the
Guardian newspaper, met his death in the hands of members of one of the
warring communities of Aguleri and Umuleri who fought for about a week
over a land dispute which started in 1995.
Also kidnapped along with the Mr. Ikwuebe were several
other persons which include a Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Mr. Peter
Udekwe, said to be in charge of Ezenifite in the Nnewi south Local
Government Area and two National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) staff
carrying out maintenance work at Otuocha. They were all later sacrificed
to a local deity at Umuleri.
The slain journalist who is a native of Nsugbe was said to
be on assignment when he was kidnapped and later killed.
The fights between the two communities left at least 500
people dead and not less than 500,000 displaced.
Ikwuebe’s murder has been condemned by various
organizations which called on the government of Anambra State to institute
a probe into the circumstances and people responsible for the vicious
Among such organizations are the Paris based free
expression group. Reporters sans Frontiers (RSF) which expressed deep
concern about the murder.
The organization also in a release recalled the murder last
September 2, of Mr. Amarube Okezie and independent journalist and
publisher, by policemen. It called for people and organizations to send
appeals to the Anambra State Military Administrator, Wing Commander
Emmanuel Ukaegbu, urging him to use his authority to thoroughly
investigate the murder and ensure that the policemen involved in the
Okezie case are punished after a public and fair trial.
Akwa Ibom State Government Discriminates Against Journalists
Akwa Ibom Broadcast Corporation (AKBC) was on April 19,
shut down indefinitely as staff embarked on strike to press for the
payment of minimum wage.
The closure, which was effected at about noon, came at the
expiration of an earlier ultimatum issued by the staff on April 16,
protesting government’s disparity in the payment of the new wage.
They noted inn the ultimatum that while civil servants
working in the core ministries were paid the new wage, those in
parastatals were issued cheques according to their old rate.
Describing the move as insensitive and inciting, they
threatened to embark on an indefinite strike with no room for skeletal
services until the situation was properly addressed.
By noon on April 19, the angry staff led by union leaders
within the corporation, forced out all the management staff and locked up
all the offices and the main gate.
Both the television and radio services of the corporation
were put off air.
Information commissioner, Mrs. Christy Obot, in an
interview described the action as hasty and promised that something would
be done soon to get the staff back to work.
She explained that the disparity in salary was introduced
because of lack of funds and not as deliberate attempt to spite a section
of the public service.
“The truth is that government cannot afford to pay
everybody at the same time. So while still sourcing for funds, government
decided to effect the payment of workers in phases, starting with the core
“Government is not saying staff in government-subvented
parastatals will not be paid the minimum wage, but we need time to source
for additional funds” said the commissioner.
Police PRO Threatens Journalists
Force Public Relations Officer, Force Headquarters, Abuja,
Mr. Young-Arebamen, on April 28, threatened journalists with arrest and
prosecution if they failed to cross-check information relating to the
police with his office before going to press.
The Force PRO was reacting to reports by some national
dailies that the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Coomassie, and 14
AIG’s will be retiring with effect from May 1, 1999, which he denied.
Arebamen said: “It is unfortunate that none of the
newspapers or the syndicate to which they subscribe, made any attempt to
cross-check with the Nigerian police to determine the veracity or
otherwise of the story before going to press. The public has the right to
know and must, therefore, be fed with the truth and nothing but the
He lambasted the journalists and if lecturing them on how
to do their work, he said: “The much we know is that grape-vine and
speculation are alien to news reporting. Journalists should not be
ignorant or oblivious of the security implications of what they dish out
to the public either as news or opinion.”
Continuing, he warned: “In the interest of public peace
journalists reporting on police activities should be careful and ensure to
cross check their information before going to press, otherwise we shall
apply the provisions of our laws, please.”
Policemen Kill Standard Newspapers Worker
A media-worker, John Musa, was killed in Maiduguri, Borno
State on April 28, 1999 when policemen clashed with protesting Borno State
civil servants who were on strike to press for a N3,000 minimum wage.
Musa was a member of the circulation of the staff of the
Jos-based Plateau State publishing company which publishes the Standard
Musa was described as an asthmatic patient. According to
the Independent Journalism Centre (IJC) Lagos, in a statement, late Musa
was said to have been chocked to death by the teargas used by the Police
in dispersing the protesting workers.
Anambra MILAD’s ADC Detains Journalist
In what seems a bullish all-out attack, Ft. Lt. Emmanuel
Chukwu, the aide-de-camp to the Anambra State Military Administrator, Wing
Commander Emmanuel Ukaegbu, for the second time in the month of April
ordered the detention of a journalist.
The journalist, Mr. John Uba, who covers the State House
was detained in a cell for one day by security men in the Government House
on the orders of Ft. Lt. Chukwu, for requesting that a vehicle be provided
for the press crew to cover the administrator’s assignment.
The State chapter of the NUJ, in a statement reaching to
the detention and an earlier one involving a reporter with the state-owned
National Light newspaper, demanded for an immediate and unreserved apology
to be written to the affected journalists. The statement noted that the
Union is worried that at a time when the head of state is labouring to
sensitise the coarse and brutish ways and image of the military, some of
them are frustrating such efforts.