Following the mysterious disappearance of one of their colleagues, members Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ ) Federal Capital Territory, (FCT), Council on Monday stormed the Headquarters of the Nigeria Police to stage a peaceful protest over the disappearance Comrade Tordue Henry Salem of the Vanguard Newspapers.
Mr. Salem, until his disappearance, was attached to the House of Representatives in the nation’s capital.
The Journalists, led by the FCT Council Chairman, Comrade Emmanuel Ogbeche, appealed to the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Usman Alkali Baba to expedite action in ensuring safe return of the missing journalist, who was last seen on Wednesday October 13, 2021.
The news hounds, who appeared in black marched, from the Ministry of Women Affairs to Force Headquarters armed with various placards with inscriptions such as; “Enough Is Enough”; “Free Tordue Now”, “Journalism Is Not a Crime,” “Free The Press”, “Stop Attacking Journalists” and many others.
Addressing his colleagues after the submission of a strong worded petition addressed to the IGP’ on the matter, the Council’s Chairman, Comrade Ogbeche, urged the Inspector General of Police to step up Intelligence and investigation Team to unravel the mysterious disappearance of the journalist.
Ogbeche expressed displeasure at the way and manner the police has been handling the matter, adding that there was need for Police to give information on the whereabouts of the missing colleague since it was formally reported at National Assembly police station immediately the unfortunate incident occurred.
He lamented the harsh environment where the safety of journalists could no longer be guaranteed despite their constitutional role and responsibility of upholding the fundamental objectives of the constitution.
While receiving the protesters on behalf of IGP, the Police Public Relations Officer, CP Frank Mba, assured that the Police High Command was determined to unravel the mystery behind the sudden disappearance of the missing journalist, saying that thorough investigation was in progress.
While appealing for caution on the matter so as not to jeopardise the ongoing investigation, he promised to brief the Leadership of the Union on the steps taken so far immediately the case was reported at his duty post, the National Assembly
”We are as concern as Journalists and members of the family. We have commenced investigation and we have done everything humanly and technologically possible to ensure he is is found. We have interrogated at least six persons and we have traced the places he visited after he left National Assembly.
“We have spoken with the last person he had an encounter with. We are imploring members of the family, public and Journalists that this is an active investigations. We have a choice not to speak as not to jeopardise our investigation. This has explained our silence over the time,” he declared.
The petition to the IGP reads in part: “The IGP, Sir, as you are aware, a colleague of ours and a journalist of note, Mr. Tordue Henry Salem of the Vanguard Newspapers went missing on Wednesday, October 13, 2021 right in front of the Total Filing Station less than a 100 meters from the Force Headquarters
“48 hours after fellow colleagues who cover the House of Representatives realised he had DISAPPEARED, a report was immediately incidented at the House of Reps Police Division. This was followed by a petition to both your office and that of the Director General of the Department of State Security by his employers- Vanguard Media Ltd. This is outside calls by the leadership of the NUJ to senior officers of the Police
“It is regrettable to note that 12 days after Mr. Tordue Henry Salem DISAPPEARED, nothing much has happened to indicate whether he is alive or dead; whether he is captive of the State, a non-state or an alien
“The IGP, it is relevant that we remind you that the State owes every Nigerian, particularly a journalist, protection and assurance of safety. Nigeria has continued to fare badly on the Press Freedom Index for six successive years and it will be most unfortunate if the DISAPPEARNCE of Mr. Tordue Henry Salem adds to the poor rating
In 2020, a report of Reporters Without Borders shows that Nigeria went five spots down the Press Freedom Index from 115 to 120 out of 180 countries, with the telling remark that Nigeria remains “one of West Africa’s most dangerous and difficult countries for journalists
“Also, a June 2021 report of the Nigeria Union of Journalists and Media Foundation for West Africa revealed that the media industry recorded seven unresolved killings, 300 violations, affecting about 500 journalists, media workers, and media houses in Nigeria.
“What all these underscore is that the prevailing environment is unsafe, suffocating and dangerous not just for journalists and other media workers but for the sustenance of democracy itself
“It is in this wise that we are here to demand that Mr. Tordue Henry Salem not only be found, but that adequate protection be offered journalists going forward. That the culture of harassment, intimidation, brutalization and disappearances ends; Our demand is reinforced by the fact that as we approach 2023, a General Elections year in Nigeria, the political and economic elites become more desperate to hang on to power and because they will not want to be held accountable to the Nigerian people, the media becomes their major target.
“This culture of impunity should and must be arrested by the Nigeria Police as the primary security agencies as well as other sister agencies
“Regarding Mr. Tordue Henry Salem, we demand that the case be transferred to a Special Unit of the IGP. While we appreciate the efforts of the FCT Command, the magnitude of the disappearance demands for a highly tactical, focused and coordinated Unit under the Office of the IGP
“We further demand confidential briefing with his family, leadership of the Union and his employers to calm frayed nerves, while we assure of our cooperation in the investigation
“Let us reiterate that for every journalist that is harassed, assaulted, disappears and murdered, the constitutional guarantee as contained in Chapter 22 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 as Amended is threatened, democracy is weakened and good governance is impossible. The IGP it is for these reasons and more, that your office urgently needs to provide answer, which is locating and reuniting Mr. Tordue Henry Salem with his family”
In her remark, the Chairperson of the House of Representatives Press Corps, Grace Ike Commended the efforts of the Leadership of the FCT Council of the NUJ and members for turning out in large numbers in the search of their missing Colleague whom she prayed would come unhurt from the den of his wicked abductors.
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.