The Nigeria Union of journalists, on Thursday, condemned the attack on a Chief Correspondent with Punch Nigeria Limited, Friday Olokor, by a combined team of security operatives from the Department of State Services and the police, describing it as reprehensible.
“It seems there is now a state policy targeting the media and journalists in this country. There is the urgency for all well-meaning Nigerians to not only condemn this travesty, but all assault on the right to freedom of expression and of the media.”
Olokor was on Thursday beaten and handcuffed by the DSS and police personnel at the popular M & M Events Centre, beside NICON Luxury, where he went to cover the ongoing African Women Conference organised by the dRPC under the Ford Foundation.
His colleague from Leadership Newspapers, Patience Ihejirika, was not spared.
The DSS operatives seized her telephone and deleted some vital videos to ensure that she did not record the assault on Olokor.
A police officer at the scene also threatened to beat her up if she did not surrender her phone.
Olokor said he ran into trouble when he introduced himself as a journalist.
He said, “We were invited to cover a panel discussion at the ongoing African Council of Women Conference with the theme: ‘Factors and Driver of Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria’, organised by the dRPC under the Ford Foundation.
“I drove to the venue, the M & M Events Centre, Abuja, close to NICON Luxury, in the Central Business District. After introducing myself, a riot policeman stopped me at the gate and said I should get an entrance tag. I told him I could only get the tag from the organisers and couldn’t get it unless I drove in. He refused and I had to call Patience Ihejirika of the Leadership Newspapers, who brought my tag.
“Yet, the policeman was complaining that journalists were the problem of Nigeria. I turned and asked him why security agents hated journalists. He started abusing me and said if not that he was in uniform, he would have taught me a big lesson. He said, ‘Look, I don’t fear journalists’. He said I wasn’t going to enter the venue. I told him that since I had been cleared, I needed to go in because the event had started. He stopped me from entering the venue.
“It was during this time that the DSS operatives pounced on me and tore my shirt. They were joined by policemen, who were all armed. They said I should sit down, but I stood up. I was handcuffed. They seized Patience Ihejirika’s phone and deleted the videos and photos of the incident, while one of the police officers threatened to beat her up.
“I called a senior DSS officer, who happened to be my friend right from school. Even when he tried to speak with them, they refused. ‘Tell him we’re not talking to him’, one of them said.
“ An Assistant Director of the DSS later called to apologise to me with a promise that the personnel involved would be summoned to write a report about what transpired.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja branch, has called for disciplinary measures against personnel of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over the alleged attack on the Chairman of the Makurdi branch of the body, Justin Gbagir.
Gbagir had on Wednesday alleged that he was beaten up by operatives of the EFCC in Makurdi, the Benue State capital.
However, the EFCC denied the allegation.
In a statement issued by the Secretary of the NBA, Abuja branch, Prince Adetosoye, and made available to journalists on Thursday, the body expressed displeasure with the treatment meted out to their colleague.
The statement read in part, “The attention of the NBA, Abuja Branch (Unity Bar), has been drawn to the brutal treatment and ill reception meted out to Mr Justin Gbagir, the Chairman of the NBA, Makurdi Branch, and the breach of the branch Treasurer’s fundamental rights.
“We condemn the act of brutality in very strong terms. This act of brutality by law enforcement agents against lawyers is one too many.”