Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Sun Newspaper has formally lodged complaint before the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu over the alleged harassment, intimidation and abuse of the rights of its staff, one Mr. Chijioke Agwu by the Governor of Ebonyi State, Mr Dave Umahi.
The paper in the petition signed by its Managing Director/ Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Onuoha Ukeh expressed sadness and worry over the action of the governor and the Ebonyi State Commissioner of Police, whom the media outfit noted supported the governor in the alleged harassment, intimidation and abuse of Agwu’s right.
According to Mr Ukeh the ill-treatments meted
out to the reporter and by extension, The Sun Newspaper, amounts to the violation of rights to human dignity, freedom of movement, freedom of association and freedom of expression, including
rights to gather, write, publish and circulate news, which are all guaranteed in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
He stressed that the freedom of the press as enshrined in the constitution implies that the press shall be a watchdog over the excesses of any government and shall ensure that the government delivers its promises to the people, adding that that was exactly what the cited publication in the Daily Sun was meant to achieve.
The MD said trouble started following the illegal and unlawful arrest of Agwu by Umahi’s Chief Security Officer, while he (Agwu) was performing his lawful and constitutional duty as a journalist in Ebonyi State.
“In Daily Sun of Friday, April 17, 2020, we published a features story written by the said Mr. Chijioke Agwu captioned: “Anxiety, fear, as Lassa fever wreaks havoc in Ebonyi,” which was based on statistics released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
“Following the said publication, on Saturday ,April 18, 2020, Mr. Chijioke Agwu eas intimidated, harassed and arrested while attending a press
conference in Government House, Abakiliki on the orders of Governor Dave Umahi by his Chief Security Officer (CSO), who subsequently
whisked him away and handed him over to the Commissioner of Police.
“The initial plan of the Governor and the Commissioner of Police was to
hurriedly arraign him before a Magistrate’s Court on trumped-up charges of violating the Ebonyi State Coronavirus and Other Dangerous (Infectious) Diseases and Related Matters Law (No. 005) 2020. However, it took the intervention of the Police High Command and well-meaning Nigerians before Agwu eventually regained his freedom after spending several hours in police custody with the associated
ill-treatments, like intimidation, harassment and denial of access to justice”, he said.
The petition added that the governor on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, announced at a press conference the banning for life of Agwu, and by implication The Sun Newspaper as an organisation, from entering Government House and all government facilities in the state.
“The governor also declare that the safety of
Journalists, including Chijioke Agwu, in the state could no longer be guaranteed by him, and that people were angry with the journalists and might begin to unleash mayhem on them, if they continue to cause panic in the state”, the petition read in part.
The paper while condemning the action of the governor, noted that as a public office holder who is accountable to the people and the laws of the land, the proper recourse for the governor was to have would have responded appropriately through a rejoinder or alternatively seek legal redress instead of resorting to unlawful acts of attempting to stifle press freedom.
Ukeh according appealed to the Police boss to ensure that adequate security is provided for Agwu and all staff of the company, while they engage in their lawful duties in Ebonyi State.
He said that the appeal became necessary going by the pronouncement of the governor that he could no longer guarantee their safety and security in the state.
He also appealed to the IG to call the Commissioner of Police, Ebonyi State to order to
immediately desist from any further form of ill treatment and intimidation of staff of the Sun Newspaper working in Ebonyi State, on Governor Umahi’s order.