The South East Zone of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Community Newspapers’ Publishers Association of Nigeria (CONPAN) have condemned in the strongest terms the invasion of the Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Abia State Council by men of the Nigerian Army deployed for the operation Python Dance in the region.
The attack by the military men which occurred Tuesday, September 12, 2017 left several journalists with critical injuries alongside the destruction of their working tools such as Tablets, Smart Phones and Voice Recorders. The military men also destroyed furniture, documents and other property yet to be quantified.
In separate statements issued by the South East Caucus of NUJ and CONPAN, they voiced their displeasure over the unwarranted and unprofessional conduct of the so highly respected Nigeria Military called on Muhammadu Buhari, the Army authorities and related agencies to apologize to members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, replace damaged gadgets and withdraw their show of force from the region.
Condemning the unprovoked attack, Comrade Chris Isiguzo, Vice President Zone C and Comrade Kenneth Ofoma,Secretary, Zone C of NUJ Zone C, stated in their statement that, “This unprovoked attack, to say the least, is barbaric and shameful, and a throwback to dark days of military dictatorship, which the media and other well meaning organizations and individuals fought hard to change the regime and psyche.
The attack on the journalists on the ostensible suspicion of taking photos and/or videos of the military on a “show of strength” in a highly populated busy street, without any atom of security threat, calls to question; whether Nigeria is still operating a civil democracy or military dictatorship? Has Nigeria returned to the dark days of police state? Or is Nigeria at war?
If indeed the military wants to “showcase her strength”, what is wrong in the media, if at all they took pictures or video, in helping them to showcase the military power? Haven’t they been calling for media support and collaboration?
We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to call the military to order. Nigeria deserves peace and development, and South East is peaceful, as we have no evidence that Governors from this zone, who are the Chief Security Officers of the zone, had made any request for military deployment. Even the latest United Nation’s report indicates that South East geo-political zone is the most peaceful in the country.
We call on the National Assembly and the International Community to weigh into this fragrant abuse of human rights, and premeditated provocation of civil disobedience that might precipitate shedding of innocent blood.
We also call on the Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff and the General Officer Commanding 82 Division, Nigerian Army Enugu to take note of this unprofessional conducts and punish the unruly
officers. They should also take immediate steps to replace damaged equipments/gadgets and compensate our colleagues manhandled. There must be rules of engagement in line with international best practices.
Finally we advise the Federal Government to adopt dialogue in handling issues of pro-Biafra agitations in the zone, which many have described as a metaphor for so many contradictions and the state of anomy in the economic and socio-political life of the country. All these had equally resulted in strident calls from different quarters for urgent restructuring of the country. The Federal Government cannot be impervious to the building tension, frustration and suffering of Nigerians and shouldn’t pour fuel into a gathering fire.”
Lending their condemnation to the invasion, Executive Secretary, CONPAN South East Council, Nze Nweke Nweke in a statement said, “CONPAN is not only perturbed that the federal troop invaded the South East states but that the soldiers started on their arrival by attacking Journalists right inside their office, having destroyed valuables belonging to our professional colleagues, worth thousands of Naira.
It is quite unfortunate that soldiers numbering about 50 who invaded the NUJ Secretariat said the offence committed by media practitioners was that they were captured or monitored with cell phones and other gadgets while they were performing their ‘legitimate’ duties.
CONPAN, South East Council, hereby calls on the Army authorities in Nigeria to withdraw the soldiers from the zone as nothing so far has warranted the invasion of the federal troops in the South East states.
“We are demanding immediate written apology from the Army Chief of Staff and the instant replacement of all the damaged working tools of our colleagues as CONPAN may be compelled to prevail on the National
Secretariat of the NUJ to withdraw journalists from covering national assignments and that of all the States in the South East until the federal troops are withdrawn.”