*You must bring the soldiers for reprimand
National Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) views the absurdities of the ongoing Operation Python Dance 2 of the Nigerian Army in the south-eastern part of the country with dissatisfaction and disenchantment, especially the unnecessary clashes with innocent citizens.
In a statement signed by Shuaibu Usman Leman the National Secretary, the NUJ noted that, “of grave concern to us was the invasion of our Press Centre in Umuahia, Abia State by soldiers on Tuesday, 12th September, 2017 barely few days after three journalists were brutalised by the officials of Department of State Security in Osun State.
The NUJ had on several occasions initiated moves towards fostering safety of journalists and building synergy with agents of the state but unfortunately, brutalisation and impunity by security agents still pervades.
There is indeed an overriding need and urgency to promote safety of journalists and fight impunity against them, in order to create the enabling environment they require to optimally perform their fundamental functions in a democracy.
We condemn in its totality the conduct of the Army at the NUJ Press Centre in Umuahia, Abia State and demand for immediate investigation into this macabre act.
- The Union notes the apologies extended to the Abia State Council of the Union by the General Officer Commanding 82 Division of the Nigerian Army and the Commander of 14 Brigade of the Army.
We however demand for an unqualified apology from the Chief of Army Staff for the dastardly conduct of his soldiers, and call for punishment for those soldiers who carried out the attack.
- Although, it may be impossible to estimate the extent of trauma caused our members by this despicable act, we however wish to demand for the payment of medical bills for all those who sustained physical injuries.
- We also demand for full compensation for all the furniture and office equipment destroyed by the soldiers at the Press Centre as well as all damaged gadgets belonging to members. Items seized must also be returned.
- For our members to trust the Army and deal with them in their professional capacities henceforth in Abia State and elsewhere, we wish to extract the commitment of the Army to ensure always the safety and security of journalists who cover their activities.
Account of the invasion: Men of the Nigerian army numbering more than 20 at the early hours of today [12/09/2017], invaded the Abia state headquarters of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, leaving at the wake of the invasion, phones and i-pads, tablets and properties destroyed.
Some of us were at the balcony, viewing the city centre when we heard the siren of some vehicles coming.
The convoy happened to be that of the military, being led by an APC (armoured personnel carrier), who suddenly stopped and started shouting, “look at the journalists, they are there. Looking at this one, he is at the window. You journalists, You journalists!!!”
More than 150 0f them was at the ground floor and surrounded our building with their guns aimed at us.
When they climbed up, they started cocked their guns and pointed at all they saw at the Press CenteR, stating that they were being filmed and photographed, but which was not true.
The over 20 military personnel who came upstairs, had their guns pointed at each and every journalist at the center, ordering us to bring out our phones and started their wanton destruction of all working tools they saw, including my phones I use for work.
Initially, they had ordered us to march down until another of them came up and asked them to leave us.
Meanwhile, the Army PRO, Major Gbadamosi and the Abia CP, Adeleye Oyebade has been informed of the development, as well as the Deputy Governor of Abia State.
However, an NUJ National Trustee, Bonny Okoro was manhandled and his I-Pad destroyed, while they threw my phone to the wall several times, used their boot to smash it and eventually used the nuzzle to finish the phone, my only working tool I have as at then.