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Attacks The Media In June 2004

Armed Bandits Invade Punch Office In Port Harcourt
Two men suspected to be cult members have laid siege to the office of The Punch newspapers in Port Harcourt and have on two occasions collected some amount of money at gun point from the staff.

The men first came on May 31 requesting for some copies of the Punch newspaper. Initially, they introduced themselves as members of the Diobu Vigilance Outfit and later demanded that the accountant give them some money to enable them bury one of their members who was killed recently. The accountant said he had no money, but one of them brought out a gun which he pointed at him, frightened by the sight of the gun, he gave them N1,000 and they quickly left.

On June 4, the same gunmen returned and this time met the senior circulation officer. They brandished their guns and demanded to be paid N5, 000 or he would lose his life. Out of fear, the circulation officer counted N5,000 and gave it to them. They left only to return a few hours later. However, when they noticed that many people were in the office, they went away.

Based on these threats, the Punch office forwarded a letter requesting for police protection to the office of the Rivers State Commissioner of police.

Journalists Barred From Tribunal
Heavily armed policemen on June 8 prevented journalists from covering proceedings at the Osun state local government election petition tribunal holding in Osogbo.

The venue of the sitting located within the premises of the state’s judicial commission was barricaded by the policemen who insisted that no journalists would be allowed into the premises notwithstanding identification by the journalists.

Horsewhip-clutching policemen, unmoved by the explanation of the journalists that they were there to carry out their legitimate duties, shoved them back, threatening to shoot if they entered the premises.

Two journalists were injured by policemen who pushed the gates against them just as explanations that it was wrong to bar journalists from covering the tribunal’s sitting made no sense

The policemen, led by the Divisional police officer in charge of Dugbe police station , Mr. Ayodele , told journalists to go back or be dealt with. With a shout that’’ we are enforcing orders from above.

Police Brutalise Journalists
A detachment of heavily armed men and officers of the Nigerian Police on June 10 in Osogbo, the Osun State capital brutalized eight journalists who were at the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Press Center to cover a lecture organized by Democracy Sustenance Initiative (DSI) as part of activities scheduled to mark the anniversary of the annulment of the election victory of late Chief M. K. O. Abiola. They also sealed the Centre to prevent the lecture from taking place.

The gate of the NUJ Secretariat was blocked by the policemen who also turned back participants from the Centre. Mrs. Teju Abiola, widow of the late Chief Abiola, who lodged at the guest-house of the secretariat was held hostage. She was prevented from leaving the secretariat.

Mr. Daniel Idiahe, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, the Area Commander of Osogbo, who led the policemen told journalists he had orders from above to seal off the secretariat. He added that the organizers of the conference constituted security risk in the state, that they should have sought and received police permission to organize the conference.

The state NUJ, however, in a statement by the chairman and secretary, Mr. Ayoade Adedayo and Hammed Bodunrin, directed its members to boycott activities involving the police with immediate effect.

They condemned police action and described as uncivilized the way the NUJ press center was invaded by the police.

Abuja Newspaper Vendors Allege Harassment
The Abuja Newspaper Vendors Association during the month alleged incessant harassment by officials of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board [AEPB].

The Association therefore threatened to go on strike adding that the strike became necessary due to the unconcerned attitude of the AEPB to their plight.

The chairman of the Association, Mr. Clifford Ukonu, made this known while speaking on a raid by members of the AEPB.

He lamented that the present leadership of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) has distanced itself from the association, only to come at the end of the year to collect what they called renewal levy.

Governor, Walks Out on Journalists
The Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Saminu Turaki, in the month, stormed out of a press conference at the National Assembly over what he perceived as negative questions from journalists. Turaki was reported to have said he regretted coming to the venue of the meeting.

One of the reporters had sought his comment on the allegations by Minister of State for Finance, Mrs. Esther Nnenadi, that governors usually repatriate their states allocation abroad.

He replied, “You people are always asking negative questions, if you are like this then Nigeria will not move forward.”

According to him, every question that was coming from the reporter was negative adding: “I am a positive governor.”

The governor then stormed out of the venue to join his convoy.

Correspondent Petitions Security Agencies Over Alleged Threats To His Life
The Benue State correspondent of ThisDay newspaper, Mr Daniel Lor, on June 21 petitioned security agencies in the state alleging threat to his life by some aides of the Benue State governor, Mr. George Akume.

Mr. Lor addressed his petition to the state director, State Security Services (SSS); the Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police Zone 4; the Inspector General (IG) of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun; civil rights groups, national and states officers of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).

He said further in the petition that an aide to the governor had two months earlier, sought to know his residence and that on another occasion, the governor singled him out and made uncomplimentary remarks about his person. He also said that strange people have been detected hiding in his compound and that his movements are being monitored. He said: “I am constrained to conclude that my personal security is in danger of being compromised.”

Governor Akume’s Chief Press Secretary, Chief Tahar Agerzua, however in his reaction described the allegation as false, saying the governor has always maintained a cordial relationship with journalists including the petitioner whom he said was given government sponsorship to attend a professional course in 2001.

Reporter Assaulted, Injured And Arrested
The Osun State correspondent of Daily Independent newspapers, Mr. Gbenga Faturoti was on June 25 beaten up by a team of policemen in Osogbo the State Capital to a state of stupor, injured in the process and subsequently arrested. He was assaulted by the policemen on the order of their superior officer in the State House of Assembly, Mr. O. C. Agboromoti, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP).

Mr. Faturoti had gone to the Osun State House of Assembly to cover the Special Parliamentary Session in honour of the former Internal Affairs Minister, late Chief Sunday Michael Afolabi. He took his position at the Gallery of the House. During the session, Gbenga’s mobile telephone handset began to ring and before he could switch it off, ASP Agboromoti ordered his arrest and detention. Immediately, the policemen swooped on him.

One Sergeant Adebayo Moses slapped him twice in the face. Gbenga was manhandled, dragged on the floor and subsequently arrested. In the process, he sustained injuries on his body.

It took the intervention of the media team to the State Governor to get the reporter released.
 

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