Udom Emmanuel Files Complaints Against Four Journalists
Reliable sources have confirmed that the decision by the Special Intelligence Bureau of Akwa Ibom State Police Command to invite four journalists known to be critical of the government was made on the basis of complaints filed by Akpabio's Secretary to the Government, Mr. Udom Emmanuel. The four journalists have been ordered to report to the Police headquarters in Ikot Akpan Abia at 10 a.m. on Thursday (April 10, 2014---please read story below).
It could be recalled that Akpabio is disappointed that Akwa Ibom people have rejected his endorsement of Udom Emmanuel as his successor, as evidenced at the recent concluded Town Hall meetings. Analysts say Godswill Akpabio and Udom Emmanuel blame the people's rejection on what they see as the negative reports published on the newspapers with which the four journalists associate.
The harassment of journalists by Akpabio and other members of his administration is not a new phenomenon in Akwa Ibom State. In a letter of complaint filed against Godswill Akpabio with the United States Government, I wrote the following; “Barely one month after assumption of office in 2007, governor Akpabio ordered the arrest and incarceration of a newspaper vendor, Mr. Essien Ewoh, for distributing a newspaper publication, Fresh Facts, that criticized the governor. Mr. Ewoh was only doing his legitimate job to earn a living.
The series of attacks on freedom of the press, arrests and charges of sedition were documented by the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in several of its publications titled “Newspaper Copies Seized in Southern Akwa Ibom State”, October 17, 2007; “Nigerian Publisher Charged With Sedition Over Story Critical of Governor”; and on January 25, 2008, “Nigerian Newspaper Distributor Arrested, Charged”. The publisher of Fresh Facts newspaper, Mr. Sam Asowata was arrested in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, tossed into the trunk of a vehicle, and driven all night to Akwa Ibom State – a distance of about 500 miles. Mr. Asowata's young daughter, who happened to have been in her father's office at the time of the arrest, was also arrested, presumably on the orders of Gov. Akpabio.” (https://justiceforakwaibom.wordpress.com/tag/governor-godswill-akpabio/)
From the day he was sworn into office in 2007, Godswill Akpabio has been abusing the executive power given to him by the Constitution of Nigeria by bribing the police to arbitrarily arrest, detain, and harass journalists at will. Last year, on the orders of Akpabio's administration, the following was reported in a local newspaper; “A principal at the Federal Technical College, Aka-Offot, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Mrs. Theresa Nweke, detained three journalists who were investigating the poor performance in the school. It was learnt that Nweke, who arrived her office around 11am, met the journalists, who were already waiting for her.
However, on learning the purpose of their visit, which was to question her on the rot in the school, she reportedly called the police on the telephone and requested that the journalists be arrested and detained. The journalists were Aniefiok Macauley of Daily Independent, Aniefiok Udonquak of BusinessDay, and Patrick Odey of Daily Trust. The journalists went to the school following a public outcry by parents and stakeholders over the poor academic performance of the school and alleged imposition of illegal levies. (http://blog4all-com.blogspot.com/2013/02/gov-akpabios-free-educationprincipal.html)
In 2011, in article published by Saharareporters under the heading “Police Clamp Down On The Media In Akwa Ibom,” the article contained the following reports; “Less than 24 hours to the governorship election in Akwa Ibom State, the police in the state raided a private printing press in Uyo on Sunday night and carted away production materials and several copies of some local newspapers while they were on production. Some journalists were arrested and later released in the morning. But the director of the printing press and two of his staffers are still being detained in an unknown location by the police. The raided printing press, Aswill is in Akpan Etuk Street in the heart of Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State, and the affected papers are Global Concord, Pivot News and Weekly Insight. Mr. Clifford Thomas, the publisher and editor-in-chief of Pivot News confirmed that the police arrested him and three other journalists who work in the production team of his paper, but that they were later released.
He said the police came in four Toyota Hilux trucks, and said they had orders from the deputy commissioner of police to stop some newspapers from getting to the newsstand because of suspicion that they were publishing subversive materials against the Akwa Ibom State government. “They forcefully took away all our production plates, we are now thinking of how to start afresh for this week publication. The police action is highly repressive and it is condemnable,” Clifford Thomas said. Mr. David Augustine, the editor-in-chief of Weekly Insight said though the police did not take away the production materials of his paper, that the raid has affected their plans to hit the newsstand early because they had already scheduled to print the newspaper in the raided press.” (http://saharareporters.com/news-page/police-clamp-down-media-akwa-ibom)
This is 2014! In a few months, the campaign for Akwa Ibom State gubernatorial Election will begin in full swing. Emmanuel Udom, who is slated by Akpabio to succeed him, is not yet sure of his political status, but is learning fast from his master by putting in motion the process of intimidating journalists. People are wondering what else he would do if he succeeds in becoming the next governor of Akwa Ibom State.
Written by Ikpafak Thompson Essien
City of Portland, Oregon.
The invited journalists run newspapers considered critical of the Akwa Ibom state government.
Representatives of four independent newspapers in Akwa Ibom state have been summoned for a 'chat' with the Special Intelligence Bureau, SIB of the Akwa Ibom State Command of the Nigeria Police Force.
The four media representatives, who are also the publishers of The Guide, The Ink, Global Concord and The Radar, have been directed to report to the Police headquarters, Ikot Akpan Abia, near Uyo, the state capital, on Thursday.
A letter by a Superintendent of Police, Joseph Udoh, a copy of which was obtained by PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday, did not state why the four journalists were summoned for the “chat.”
“In view of the political atmosphere in the country, and the role the press has to play in our day-to-day life, and the forthcoming 2015 general elections, it has become expedient for us to have a chat together,” the letter said.
“To this end, therefore, you are invited to a roundtable chat with the officer in charge of the State Intelligence Bureau, State Police Headquarters, Ikot Akpan Abia, on Thursday, 10th April 2014 by 10 a.m. “Please, treat this invitation as important. Accept our high esteem as we partner to make Akwa Ibom State peaceful, safe and secure.''
Close followers of events in Akwa Ibom state are, however, skeptical of the real intention behind the invitation of the journalists by the Police SIB, whose main responsibility should be to provide intelligence on criminal activities in the society.
Those familiar with the state of the media in the state say the quartet are noted for their crusading journalism and uncompromising reporting of issues and activities, a disposition the state government has, on several occasions, voiced its concern and discomfort about.
The State Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Etim Dickson, told our reporter on telephone on Wednesday that he was not aware of the details of the invitation of the four journalists.
“Are journalists above the law?” Mr. Dickson queried, when asked about what informed the invitation. “Why don't you wait till we hear the outcome? For me, I don't know why they have been invited. What I know is that the police must have something against them before they are invited.”
He said the SIB, which is the equivalent of the State Security Service, SSS, in the Police, must have stumbled on some information against the invited journalists for which investigators might need clarifications.
The Chairman of the State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Patrick Albert, also said in a telephone interview that although the Police did not inform him officially of the invitation, he learnt about it from the affected journalists.
Mr. Albert said when he contacted the PPRO to inquire about the invitation; he also claimed not to be aware of its details. He, however, said the issue was discussed during the meeting of the State Working Committee of the Union on Tuesday to decide on whether it would be necessary for an official of the Union to accompany the invited journalists to the Police. “As a body, we are concerned,” Mr. Albert said. “As a responsible organization, we believe that if any of our members has erred in the course of exercising his duties, there is a well-constituted Ethics and Disciplinary Committee headed by one of the most respected Professors of Communication Arts in the world, Des Wilson.
“The Committee has the responsibility to look at petitions against any journalist from all segments of the society, including government and its agencies.
“If somebody or an institution feels aggrieved by the conduct of journalists, we believe the best place to go is the court of law to seek redress, not the Police, except where it has to do with criminality.”
The Publisher of 'Global Concord', Unyime Ekwere, who is one of those summoned, told PREMIUM TIMES that although he had no inkling of what informed the invitation, he would honour the summon.
“I don't know about others. But, I will respond to the invitation,” he said. “I am very clear in my mind that neither my medium nor I has done anything illegal or criminal to warrant any arrest. “In a democracy, we (our newspaper) have only provided a democratic platform for all citizens to contribute their views on development and peace in an open market place of ideas. If that is a crime that should warrant the invitation, I have no regrets.”
Mr. Ekwere, however, expressed fears that the invitation might be the beginning of a fierce clampdown on the critical press to stifle opposition views on political issues in the build up to the 2015 elections in the state.
He said attacks on his newspaper by persons suspected to be agents of the state government were not new in the last four years. According to him, he personally survived at least two incidents of gunshots by unknown assailants.
His car, he said, was also clamped and grounded on several occasions by unknown persons.
The State Commissioner for Information, Aniekan Umanah, did not answer calls to his telephone when our reporter called on Wednesday.
A response to a text message to him seeking comment was still being awaited as at the time of publishing this report.
Culled From Premium Times