…As Abuja journalists storm police headquarters
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
THE Police yesterday said no fewer than six persons had been quizzed over the sudden disappearance of Vanguard’s reporter, Tordue Salem, 13 days ago in Abuja.
This came as aggrieved Abuja- based journalists under the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, stormed the headquarters of the Nigeria Police protesting perceived silence by security agencies over the journalist’s disappearance.
The protest came even as the minority leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu and the Clerk of the National Assembly, Ojo Amos, also expressed concern over the journalist’s disappearance.
Salem, who until his disappearance was covering the House of Representatives for Vanguard Newspapers, has not been seen or heard from since Wednesday, October 13, 2021 in Abuja.
Responding to the demands of the protesting journalists, the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Frank Mba, who received the aggrieved journalists on behalf of Inspector General of Police, IGP, Usman Baba Alkali, said the police had traced the last location of the missing reporter, and that six persons had been questioned while investigation was still ongoing.
According to him, “He was last seen at NASS between 4 and 5pm on the 13th and thereafter his colleagues never got to see him again. On the 15th of October, the matter was formally reported by his colleagues at the National Assembly Police Station. The attention of the commissioner of police was drawn to the case as well as the attention of the office of the Inspector General of Police.
“A very firm instruction was given by the IG that no human or material resource should be spared at locating and understanding the rationale behind his disappearance. As I speak with you, we have made considerable and significant progress with the investigation.
“But I’m glad that the chairman of the Council understood the need for confidential briefing and because of that request, I will rather do more of confidential briefing. But it will suffice to say here that we’ve been able to trace where he visited after he left the National assembly.
“We have been able to interact with a young lady who spent time with him that night, we have the records of the last calls he made. We have spoken to about six different persons whom he spoke to that night and there are a lot of efforts behind the scene taking place.
“The reason for the police silence is; because in investigation it is called tactical silence. We deliberately kept silent because when you are working on a sensitive case, sometimes we want to get to a comfortable cruising altitude before you begin to break the public.
“Remember the suspects or whoever has a hand in the caseis aware and you do not provide too much for the person to know how much and how far you have come.
“I just want to give you a very strong assurance that everything humanly and operationally will be done to solve this case. We see the media as an integral part of what we do. We appreciate your collaboration, support and partnership and we are committed to strengthening this partnership.
“Your concerns are our concerns. Your worries are our worries and we will work with you to ensure this case is given a positive and conclusive closure. After here, my doors are open and I’m giving an open invitation to your leadership to visit and I will give you detailed confidential brief on this case.”
Earlier, the protesting journalists displayed various placards with inscriptions such as “Free Tordue Salem Now”, “Enough is Enough”, and “Defend Press Freedom.”
Speaking, the NUJ-FCT Council Chairman, Emmanuel Ogbeche, requested that the case be transferred to the special unit in the office of the IGP to be handled professionally and expeditiously.
Presenting their demands to Mr Mba, Ogbeche, among others said: “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 realized he had disappeared, a report was immediately incidented at the House of Representatives Police Division. This was followed by a petition to both your office and that of the Director General of the Department of State Service 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 a captive of the state, a non-state or an alien. 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.”
Similarly, the minority leader, Elumelu while declaring open a two day capacity building workshop for National Assembly Press Corps, Media aides and information officers themed “Legislative Reporting and Citizen Engagement” organized by the Clerk’s office in conjunction with Yiaga Africa’s Centre for Legislative Engagement in Abuja yesterday prayed for Salem’s safe return.
Clerk to the NASS reacts
Also, the Clerk to the National Assembly in his remarks at the workshop urged the security agencies to find Salem.
“It is tragic to note that one of our own, Tordue Salem, Vanguard Correspondent and a member of the House of Representatives Press Corps is still missing. As the Chief bureaucrat of the National Assembly, l am deeply pained that this unfortunate reality confronting all of us today. I hereby use this medium to urge security personnel handling the disappearance of Mr. Tordue Salem to be proactive and assiduous, so that, we can get to the root of this singularly tormenting matter.”