By Emeka Umeagbalasi

Nigeria has become the axis of evil or a rogue State where lives of the practitioners of journalism are endangered; their liberties threatened; and their rights to freedom of association, movement and expression muzzled and abetted by her roguish political authorities.

 Nigeria’s democracy has degenerated so dangerously that the country is now at par with the totalitarian and authoritarian states of Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Libya, etc, with regard to all forms of state-crime .Nigeria has joined other most dangerous countries for the media, where 59 journalists doing their harmless works have been killed since January 2010.

According to a recent report from the Geneva-based Press Emblem Campaign, Mexico recorded the highest killing with the murder of nine journalists in six months or since January 2010, followed by Honduras with eight killings, Pakistan with six killings, while Nigeria and the Philippines recorded four killings each.

Three journalists, according to the group, were murdered in Russia, three in Colombia, and two in Iraq, Nepal, Thailand and Venezuela. One journalist was murdered in Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroun, Cyprus, Ecuador, Israel, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Turkey, Somalia and Yemen.

The group says the reasons for these senseless killings range from organized crime in Mexico to tribal tension in Pakistan and Nigeria, and settling of political disputes in the Philippines, the Russian Caucasus and in Nepal. Nigeria’s case is also politically and ill-motivated.

Sadly, Nigeria is now more hostile to journalists than the failed States of Somalia and Afghanistan, and the rogue States of North Korea, Iran, Libya, Syria, etc, and even the closed States of Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Sudan, etc. As if these were not enough, rampaging kidnappers, oiled by Nigeria’s gangster politicians and billionaire-merchants of death, went and kidnapped last weekend four innocent journalists, with their drivers, along Ikot-Ekpene- Aba Road, Southeast Nigeria. The victims were: Wahab Oba, Adolphus Okonkwo, Sylva Okereke, Sola Oyedipo and their drivers.

The Delta State-based journalists also narrated how their vehicles were shot at in Abia State, with intent to murder them. While the State of Mexico had recorded the highest number of killing of journalists since January 2010, Nigeria may be leading the way in terms of highest number of kidnapped journalists in the world also since January 2010. Nigeria has become a consociation democratic society where resort to self-help mechanism rules over criminal and civil justice mechanisms as well as universally established alternatives to dispute resolution mechanisms.

We dare say that the reason behind the kidnap of the journalists at first place is highly political. The political leaders in Abia State have a case to answer. Unfortunately, the Nigeria Police High Command is not helping matters; instead, the Command is enmeshed in corruption and professional incompetence. We have said it severally that rabid corruption in the Force has made it impossible for these crimes to be tamed.

Even the traditional commonsense in the brains of the nation’s 377,000 policepersons has given way to professional daftness. We dare say it again that once extortion at police check-points, police stations and commercialization of criminal investigations as well as monetary returns to superior officers are theoretically and practically prohibited, these crimes will be manageably tamed. We have also identified lack of political will on the part of governing authorities in Nigeria as one of the main reasons why these crimes have continued. Ninety-percent of these crimes are believed to have emanated from the political class, especially in the area of complicity or sponsorship.

As a result, the governing authorities are in most cases, not keen in exposing and prosecuting those involved for fear of breaking covenants of the graveyard, entered into with those involved.

All in all, it is sacrilegious to whittle down press freedom, not to talk of kidnapping or killing journalists who traditionally animate the Press and pour libations at its holiest shrines, so as to activate them for the purpose of re-molding the people and re-engineering the society. Among the four deities of the judiciary, the executive, the legislature, and the press or fourth estate of realm, the Press is their general overseer and most sacred.

And any country that targets its press practitioners either for physical or psychological harms is a society in the wilderness of chronic backwardness. It is dishearteningly unfortunate that Nigeria has chosen to remain eternally confined in  cave while her peer groups have advanced beyond making their abodes a better place of living for their mortals, but also catering for the welfare of other living organisms.

 Emeka Umeagbalasi is the chairman, Intersociety, Nigeria

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