Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola
Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Gboyega Akinsanmi
A sizable number of journalists under the aegis of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Thursday stormed the office of the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), protesting what they described as the incessant brutalisation and harassment of their colleagues in Lagos and other states of the federation.
The protest was staged in response to the recent attack on Mr. Ben Uwalaka of Leadership Newspapers and Mr. Kolawole Olasupo of THISDAY Newspapers who were unjustly treated while discharging their official duties at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) as well as Mr. Tunde Ogundeji of Nigerian Compass, who was attacked by passengers and officials of Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC).
The protesters, who were led by Chairman of NUJ Lagos Council, Mr. Deji Elumoye, started at 10:00 a.m. from the Ladi Lawal Press Centre through Awolowo Way in Ikeja peacefully with songs of solidarity against unjust treatment of journalists, and calling on the state government to address issues that have to do journalists’ protection.
The journalists, who were initially left unattended to for more than 40 minutes at Lagos House in Ikeja, later blocked both entrances to Governor’s Office, thereby preventing vehicles from coming and going out of the office.
They demanded to see a representative of the governor to address them since Fashola had travelled abroad.
Some of the placards, which the protesting journalists carried, read: “Journalists are friends, not foes. We will no longer tolerate these assaults. We demand for our rights. Stop the assaults. We will resist the brutalities.”
Speaking at the protest, Elumoye explained that the state NUJ council wrote a formal letter “to Fashola that we would be coming here and he will receive us, and if he was not going to be around, there should be somebody to receive us.
After a while, the Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Raji, came out and apologised for keeping the journalists waiting just as he explained that Fashola had travelled to Saudi Arabia on Lesser hajj.
Raji also apologised for recent attacks on photo journalists, explaining that the state government would not fold its hands and watch law abiding citizens brutalised while assuring that the perpetrators would be made to face the music.
He said it “is not in our character to allow such development. Like you rightly recalled, the state government has said it before the perpetrator of the heinous crime has been arrested. The state government has also provided free legal service through the Office of the Public Defender to the journalists concerned.
“The state government has also opted to foot the medical bill of the journalist, all these are not a way of covering up this issue, but it is a way of showing concern and in solidarity with you that none of its citizens gets molested and harassed this way and the perpetrators go free”, the special adviser explained.
He acknowledged that the office of the Attorney General is awaiting the final police investigation in this issue and the person will be prosecuted diligently, noting that even if the perpetrator “is a state government official, he does not have the right to do what he has just done. There is no orchestrated plan to harass journalist, more especially here in Lagos. All these issues are fairly spontaneous reactions of overzealous members of the society just decided to take laws into their hands and the government will not fold its hands and watch.”
Meanwhile, new Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, has condemned in strong terms the recent attack on Uwalaka.
Martins, who, yesterday in Lagos, during his maiden interaction with journalists after he was recently installed as the Archbishop of Lagos, described the unfortunate incident as, “shocking and condemnable, maintained that there was no way to justify such attack on a man who was going about his constitutional responsibility.
“It is the role of the media to educate, inform and entertain the public and in doing so, they are allowed by law to have access to any legitimate information that is of public relevance”, the archbishop noted.