THE Oyo State council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has condemned the attack on an assistant editor with the Nigerian Tribune, Mr Laolu Harolds, by some military men attached to the state government’s demolition team.
The NUJ, in a statement made available to the Nigerian Tribune, described the assault on the reporter as crude, barbaric and uncalled for.
“Journalists all over the world are known for nosing for news so as to keep the public abreast with happenings within and outside their environs.
“Harolds is lying critically ill at the Accident and Emergency ward of the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, while his assailants are roaming the streets unmolested,” NUJ stated.
The union, in the statement, called for the arrest of the said military men, so as to make them face the wrath of the law.
It also appealed to its members not to be deterred by the incident, but to go about their lawful duties, as every necessary action was being taken to avert future occurrence.
The Tribune chapel of the union called on the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Azubike Ihejirika, to investigate the circumstances that led to the molestation of the Tribune’s assistant editor.
Chairman of the chapel, Pastor Sulaimon Olarenwaju, in a statement issued on Wednesday, urged the army chief to leave no stone unturned in an effort to fish out and bring the perpetrators of the dastardly act to justice.
He said it was unfortunate that the soldiers, who were supposed to protect the citizens, from whose taxes they were paid, unleashed such a bestial act on a reporter who had only a camera, biro and notebook as tools for the performance of his lawful duties.
The Tribune chapel chairman also called on the army authorities to retrieve from the soldiers and return to the reporter, items that included his digital camera which they seized from him.
Meanwhile, a torrent of condemnations trailed the brutalisation of Mr Harolds.
The Save Nigeria Group (SNG), while reacting to the incident, described the development as barbaric, extreme lawlessness that should be an abominable aberration in the domain of a government that calls itself progressive.
Spokesperson for the group, Mr Yinka Odumakin, while speaking with the Nigerian Tribune in a telephone conversation, urged the Oyo State government to tender an unreserved apology to the journalist and his newspaper organisation, as well as pay full compensation for the injuries sustained by the reporter.
“More importantly, the soldiers that beat him up should be identified and the military authorities should bring the full weight of the law to bear on them for assaulting a journalist who has committed no offence than doing his lawful duty,” Odumakin said.
Also condemning the barbarism, the coordinator of Media Law Centre, a non-governmental group defending media harassment, Mr Richard Akinnola, said assault on journalists had become a fortnightly thing, saying “this nonsense must stop!”
Akinnola said Nigerians must rise against the trend and pressed charges against offending government, while the usual apology by such governments must not be tolerated.
Top officials of the Oyo State government, on Wednesday, paid a sympathy visit to Mr Harolds, at the UCH.
Leading the team was the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Pastor Taiwo Otegbeye, who expressed government’s sympathy to Mr Harolds on his hospital bed.
Otegbeye said the incident was quite unfortunate, because no responsible government would have asked security men to brutalise any innocent citizen.
“This is not a government of brigandage. We did not send anyone to brutalise anybody. We believe in the maintenance of law and order in the urban renewal effort of government,” he said.
The commissioner also said the government would be ready to pick up the medical bills of Mr Harolds, as a demonstration of its commitment to good governance.
Also on the team were the Special Adviser on Media to the Governor, Dr Festus Adedayo; his counterpart on Information and Orientation, Mr Gbolagade Busari; the Special Assistant on Information and Orientation, Mr Ademola Solalu and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Mr Tunde Busari.