April 24, 2020

Umahi recants, denies banning journalists

Afikpo killings

Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State.

Governor of Ebonyi state, David Umahi

…IPOB wants Umahi removed as S-East govs leader
…Tame Umahi’s dictatorial credentials now—CLO
…Ebonyi indigenes in Diaspora condemn action

By Innocent Anaba, Anayo Okoli, Omeiza Ajayi, Peer Okutu & Chimaobi Nwaiwu

Abakaliki—A  day after Governor David Umahi  of Ebonyi State barred two journalists, Mr. Peter Okutu of Vanguard newspapers and Mr. Chijioke Agwu of The Sun newspapers from entering the State House for life during a live broadcast at the new Government House, Abakaliki, his media aide, Mr. Francis Nwaze, has debunked the decision of his boss.

The broadcast, which was televised live, has been uploaded via YouTube and other online platforms.

This came as Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB; Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, and Ebonyi Indigenes in Diaspora knocked the governor  for acting in total disregard of the dictates of democracy and rule of law.

The  statement signed by Francis Nwaze, Special Assistant Media and Publicity to the Governor said: “My attention has been drawn to the news and a purportedly doctored audio and video making the rounds on social and print media alleging that the governor banned Chijioke Agwu and Peter Okutu of Daily Sun newspapers and Vanguard newspapers respectively for life for publishing false reports and I make bold to state as follows:

“That there were false reports from Chijioke Agwu of Daily Sun who reported that lassa fever is killing Ebonyians in droves on Tuesday,  April 14, 2020, and Peter Okutu who reported that the Nigerian military killed 20 Ebonyians just last weekend on April 21, 2020.

“That the above two reports all raised alarm and caused panic in the midst of the fight against COVID-19. No case of confirmed death caused by Lassa fever has been recorded in recent times in Ebonyi State neither was there any killing by the Nigerian military last weekend in Ebonyi. The reports were all ill-conceived and have no truth in them.

“The two journalists were never embarrassed, intimidated or harassed to the knowledge of the governor in any government event as alleged and the governor never ordered for such.

“That the governor, David Umahi had on April 15 and 22, 2020 called on the attention of the state NUJ Chapter, Tony Nwizi, and advised him and his executive members to admonish members of the union in the state to ensure they make their findings correctly and avoid unverified and false reports as it doesn’t help in the progress and building of our country, Nigeria and also capable of causing panic in Ebonyi State.

“That the governor never ordered a ban on any journalist from attending state functions.

“Having made the above clarifications; I, therefore, call on the general public, NUJ and others concerned to discountenance  the false reports, videos and audio as they are either a figment of the bearers’ imagination, which they brought to bear or a deliberate attempt geared towards smearing the hard-earned good reputation and good media relationship of the governor.”


IPOB wants Umahi removed as S-East govs leader

However, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB,yesterday, berated Governor Umahi over his incessant attacks, harassment and humiliation of journalists working in the state, saying he does not deserve to be a leader of people.

According to IPOB, Umahi has become power drunk and has been harassing and threatening journalists working in the state following their insistence in exposing evil and the ongoing genocides and unprovoked attacks against hapless Ebonyi people by herdsmen, terrorists, and security operatives.

IPOB, in a statement by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful said: “Governor Dave Umahi has not stopped harassing and giving threatening messages to journalists in Ebonyi State, over their insistence in exposing through their factual reports, the ongoing genocides and unprovoked attacks against hapless Ebonyi people by  herdsmen, terrorists, and security operatives in some instances.

“Under Governor Dave Umahi’s watch in Ebonyi State, journalists who believe in truth and reporting the way it is are no longer safe; the government of Ebonyi State under Umahi is unsettled with the truths the journalists in the state are revealing.

“We advise Dave Umahi and his agents to retrace their steps because on the day of reckoning, their slave masters in Abuja and Sokoto cannot save them. Governor Dave Umahi must stop his infamous clamp down on innocent journalists because they committed no crime against his government.

“It is the right and duty of journalists as the watch dog of society, to expose atrocities of both criminals and state actors for the good of all.

“IPOB will no longer tolerate intimidation, humiliation and arrest of innocent Biafrans, including journalists and other residents for no just cause. We wish to warn Governor Umahi that a word is enough for the wise.”

Tame Umahi’s dictatorial credentials now — CLO

Also yesterday, CLO, South East Zone  condemned in entirety, the dissent to dictatorship and anti democratic  actions of Governor Umahi.

CLO in a statement by its zonal chairman, Mr Aloysius Attah, said: “We saw the broadcast as a vindication for those who have suffered from the governor’s alleged highhandedness, iron fist leadership, emotional, psychological and physical brutality in the past, who have been crying silently  but their voices have not been heard, rather they are being demonised by their oppressor.

“Press freedom remains one of the essential pillars of democracy while the upholding of responsibility and accountability of leaders to the people, which the press promotes, should not be subjected to the emotions and countenance of an elected governor.

“Before  this reckless arrogation of power, which the governor displayed in handing out the harsh ‘sentence’ without trial on Okutu and Agwu, other journalists who have tasted Umahi’s bitter pill in the past included Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Obinna Odogwu and Emmanuel Uzor all of The Sun newspaper before Uzor joined his government.  Uzor’s sack from the post of Chief Press Secretary and later assignment  to another position was also part of the anti democratic actions of the governor.

“Others include but not limited to Samuel Nweze, publisher of Peoples Leader newspaper and Charles Otu, publisher of Conscience newspaper, two  local tabloids based in Ebonyi.

“The likes of Prof. Bernard Odoh, former SSG who resigned his position and wrote an open letter to the governor, was an exemplary show of courage from the mold of other appointees ‘suffering and smiling’ in Umahi’s government.

“But we wish to remind Umahi that history and posterity have never been kind to despots and anti democrats.  We also wish to remind the governor that he was elected to  serve while he is not a permanent landlord at Ebonyi Government House.

“His day of exit is already numbered and he has no power under any law to determine who stays or quits Ebonyi State. In fact, his power as the Chief Security Officer of  the state places him in a tight corner to ensure the safety and well-being of the two journalists and other citizens and residents of the state.”

Ebonyi indigenes in Diaspora condemn action

Similarly, Association of Ebonyi State Indigenes in Diaspora, AESID,  yesterday, decried the ban for life, of the two journalists  by  Gov.ernor Umahi.

The association’s chairman, Ambassador Pascal Oluchukwu said in a statement in Abuja, yesterday, that the decision breached the journalists’ constitutional rights.

Oluchukwu described the decision as “dictatorial in a democratic system of government.”

According to him, the Ebonyi governor breached the constitutional rights of journalists to cover government’s activities and hold it accountable for such activities.

READ ALSO: Police release Vanguard reporter in Ebonyi

He said:  “We, the Ebonyi State indigenes, however, apologise to the two journalists, their organisations and Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, for the embarrassing act of our governor.

“Ebonyi State needs to be rescued from the hands of the current handlers, hence, the need for more investigative reporting into the activities of the current state government.

“We appeal to journalists not to be deterred because without critical journalism in a democracy, some actors may likely act like dictators.

“As we speak, there are lot of alleged looting, unreported killings and all manner of misgovernance going on in Ebonyi State.

‘’We suspect that the Governor Umahi-led administration was no longer comfortable with these two journalists of Vanguard and The Sun newspapers, hence the public embarrassment  he has caused the state.

“The banning of these two journalists is as a result of a plot  to cover up some atrocities already committed. There are people this government has taken their lands forcefully for airport project, but till now,  these poor farmers have nowhere to call their home again.

“Pensioners have never received anything like pension since this government came in. The governor banned Okada business without providing them another means of livelihood.

“We, the indigenes of Ebonyi in diaspora, are saying no to banning of journalists in Ebonyi Government House and we call on all the media houses to beam their searchlight more on the misgovernance going on in our dear state.

‘’We also call on all true civil society groups to be up and doing for the sake of our people.’’