On May 29, 2020, suspected political thugs said to be loyal to Mr. Kennedy Ibeh, a member of the Imo State House of Assembly, representing Obowo State Constituency, attacked Mr. Finian Chuks, publisher of Newsfield newspaper, and beat him up for allegedly blackmailing the politician to pay him an undisclosed amount of money.
The incident happened at the Secretariat of the All Progressive Congress Party (APC) in Owerriwhere some People’s Democratic Party(PDP) Imo State officials decamped to APC.
Finian disclosed he was battered for publishing a story in his newspaper where he accused Ibeh of instigating the certificate scandal in the Assembly. He also alleged the lawmaker’s bank account was used to siphon N1.3 billion belonging to the Imo State Universal Basic Education Board (IMSUBEB) fund meant for construction of school buildings in the state.
Confirming the battery, Hon. Ibe’sMedia Consultant, Onyekachi Ifeanyi, said in a statement that the publisher’s allegations were spurious arguing that he published falsehood against Hon. Ibe and brought copies of the newspaper to the APC secretariat, where the event was taking place.
In the statement, Onyekachi said: “On Thursday [May 27, 2020], while the honourable member came along with the Speaker and other lawmakers to APC party secretariat to receive some defected PDP officials, Finian Chuks came to the arena with loads of the newspaper where he published the falsehood as the banner headline and was sharing it to party faithful and the entire crowd.
“He was challenged by admirers of Kennedy Ibeh who cautioned him to stop distracting the event with the distribution, which eventually degenerated into fisticuffs among them towards the end of the program”.
The statement also accused the journalist of demanding Hon. Ibe pay him some money and arrears of a bill he accumulated at a hotel in Owerri or face malicious attack adding Finian“carried out his threat by greatly maligning the hard-earned reputation of the honourable member by publishing unprintable things against him.”
“He cooked up unimaginable lies, including describing the lawmaker as a cultist responsible for killing people in his constituency.
Onyekachi said Finian also posted same on Facebook and other social platforms.
On June 3, about 50 journalists in Imo State besieged the state House of Assembly to protest against the attack. They demanded the immediate suspension of Hon. Ibe for the brutal attack on Finian.
The journalists, who took to the streets in protest wielded placards of different inscriptions with some reading: “Lives of journalists matter”, ” Suspend Kennedy Ibeh now”, “There is nothing parliamentary about thuggery”, “Protect the rights of journalists” etc. etc.
Comrade Kelechi Ugo, editor of Edge Express Newspapers, who led the protesting journalists demanded the immediate suspension of Hon. Ibeh by the leadership of the House of Assembly pending when the matter is duly investigated.
Comrade Kelechi said: “We are here to register our grievances over the brutal assault on our colleague, Mr. Finian Chuks by thugs loyal to Hon. Kennedy Ibeh. Mr. Chuks is currently receiving medical treatment in a hospital in Owerri. With this development, we are worried that Imo State no longer seems to be safe for journalists. If a journalist could be beaten like a common criminal in the presence of the state APC Executives, I wonder what will happen to a common man?
“We are calling on the leadership of Imo Assembly to call Hon. Ibeh to order and to fish out the thugs, aides that assaulted our colleague, Mr. Finian Chuks. We, also demand an unreserved apology from Hon. Ibeh to Imo journalists.”