Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, appears at daggers-drawn with journalists in the state, with his insistence on demolishing the Press Centre of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) as part of his private museum
The building was built in the early 70s by the administration of the late Military Governor of the defunct Mid-West/Bendel State, Brigadier General Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia
The press centre building, sitting on an expanse of land donated to the union by the then Oba of Benin, Akenzua II is situated at No. 1, Reservation Road, later renamed Gabriel Igbinedion Way, in the Government Reservation Area (GRA), Benin.
NUJ press centre in Benin is strategic, as it is the venue for daily distribution of local, regional, national and international newspapers and magazines to vendors and distributors.
The press centre of Edo NUJ also houses the befitting offices of correspondents’ chapel of the union, lawyers and other professionals.
It was gathered yesterday in Benin that Obaseki wanted to use Edo NUJ’s land to build Edo Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA), to house the stolen artifacts being returned to Benin from Europe, to rival the Edo Royal Museum, being built by Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, to house the same artifacts.
The Edo royal museum is located opposite the palace of the Oba of Benin, with major stakeholders in the state and beyond supporting the initiative, which is backed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
It was also learnt that expatriates that would handle the EMOWAA project were sighted at NUJ’s press centre on Thursday for inspection, and they were accompanied by fully-armed policemen, with the demolition likely to commence this weekend.
The Functioning Director of Lands, Edo State Geographic Information Service (EDOGIS), Mrs. Lydia Igbinigie, earlier wrote to Edo Chairman of NUJ, Festus Alenkhe, on the land matter, while the Managing Director of EDOGIS, Mrs. Osaro Aihie, who was appointed by Obaseki about three months ago, later called Alenkhe on the same matter.
Edo Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, a lawyer, met in his office yesterday morning with some stakeholders on the NUJ’s land matter, with a member of the executive of the state’s NUJ (name withheld) quoting the SSG as stating that he was not aware of the land tussle and demolition bid, but promised to get the details.
Reacting, Edo State Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, through telephone, first denied knowledge of the planned demolition of the NUJ premises.
He however, stated that Obaseki’s government was working on moat’s right of way in Benin and its environs, while he declined further comment on the NUJ’s land matter and planned demolition of the befitting secretariat.
Edo chairman of NUJ, who lost his mother some days ago, when contacted through the phone, declined to comment on the matter.
Nevertheless, the President of NUJ, Chris Isiguzo, when contacted for his reaction, through the phone from Owerri, Imo State, at 4:53 p.m. yesterday, said: “Please, ask Edo State Chairman of NUJ. I earlier told Festus Alenkhe what to do.”
Alenkhe, at 5:03 p.m., through the phone, said: “Mr. President (of NUJ) directed Edo State Council’s leadership of NUJ to resist the forcible takeover of the land.”
Edo chairman of NUJ also added that the directive of Isiguzo would be strictly adhered to.