MRA Says Abduction of Journalists Reaching ‘Epidemic Proportions’

MRA Says Abduction of Journalists Reaching ‘Epidemic Proportions’

…Urges Government to Take Decisive Action …Calls for Arrest of Gov Uzodimma’s Brother …Wants Internet Connectivity for All Citizens Media Rights Agenda (MRA), a frontline advocacy group, has expressed “serious concern” over the rising spate of abduction of journalists, saying it was reaching “epidemic proportions’.  It calls on the Government and security agencies to take

…Urges Government to Take Decisive Action

…Calls for Arrest of Gov Uzodimma’s Brother

…Wants Internet Connectivity for All Citizens

Media Rights Agenda (MRA), a frontline advocacy group, has expressed “serious concern” over the rising spate of abduction of journalists, saying it was reaching “epidemic proportions’.  It calls on the Government and security agencies to take immediate action to locate and rescue the latest victim, Ms Chidiebere Onye, a reporter with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), who was kidnapped on February 9 in Rivers State.

It also wants the Inspector General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu to order the arrest and prosecution of Mr Uche Uzodimma, brother of Imo State Governor, Mr Hope Uzodimma for brutal assaults on journalists while also imploring Government to adopt appropriate policies to ensure Internet connectivity for all Nigerians

“By any measure, the government is failing woefully in its duty to protect journalists, particularly as there is no indication that it is taking the issue seriously or making any visible effort to ensure their safety or security ’, said Mr. Sideeq Rabiu, MRA’s legal officer,  in a statement issued in Lagos.

Ms Onye was kidnapped at gunpoint by unknown gunmen while heading home after work, along the railway line in Woji, Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State in the night of February 9, 2021. She was reportedly asked to step down from her vehicle and directed to a waiting SUV that then drove away with her to an unknown destination.

Mr. Rabiu described her kidnapping as “heinous and senseless,” especially as she is a nursing mother, saying “Journalists are notoriously poorly paid in Nigeria and it is highly unlikely that anyone would expect to make a great deal of money by kidnapping a journalist for ransom.  So we fail to understand the sudden surge in the kidnapping of journalists.”

Stressing that it was now time for the Government to take action on the issue of the safety of journalists, he called for the establishment of prevention and rapid response mechanisms to provide journalists and other media workers who are threatened or under attack an avenue which they can immediately reach out to and which is competent and has adequate resources to provide effective protective measures.

He called on the Government to ensure that prompt, thorough and effective investigations are conducted into all cases of violence, threats or attacks against journalists and other media workers in order to bring the perpetrators to justice, including those who conspired to commit the act, aided and abetted or covered up such crimes.

MRA also called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr Mohammed Adamu to order the immediate arrest and prosecution of Mr. Uche Uzodimma, brother to the Imo State Governor, Mr Hope Uzodimma, and others involved in the criminal attack and brutalization of Mr. Precious Nwadike, editor of the Owerri-based newspaper, Community Watchdog.

The organization called on the Police to thoroughly investigate the circumstances leading to the brutal assault on Mr. Nwadike, citing reports that his newspaper, Community Watchdog, had published critical reports on the Uzodinma Administration in the State, which may have been responsible for the unexplained hostility towards the journalists and the assault on him.

In a separate statement in Lagos issued by its Director of Programmes, Mr. Ayode Longe, MRA condemned the February 9 attack on the editor by Mr. Uche Uzodimma and hoodlums acting at his behest, during which they beat up and tortured Mr. Nwadike, leaving him badly bruised and unconscious on the roadside.

Mr. Longe said:  “Mr. Uche Uzodimma was obviously emboldened in carrying out such a barbaric and criminal act by the fact that he is a brother to the State Governor and the confidence that given his status, he could get away with inflicting grievous bodily harm on another citizen. It is imperative that he is made to understand in no uncertain terms that his relationship with the Governor does not confer any special status on him and that he is not superior to any other citizen.”

He also called on the relevant anti-corruption agencies in the country to launch an investigation into the circumstances under which Uche Uzodimma was awarded road construction contracts in Imo State under a ruling party that came to power on an anti-corruption manifesto.

Mr. Longe contended that “It is apparent that such acts which evidence a total disregard for propriety, decency and the rule of law have resulted in delusions of grandeur on the part of Mr. Uche Uzodimma such that he now believes that he can willfully violate the rights of other citizens with impunity. Such anti-social and criminal behavior should be strongly deprecated by every well-meaning Nigerian, particularly those in authority who have a duty to protect all citizens”.

Recounting his experience on his hospital bed, Mr. Nwadike said he had gone to register for the National Identity Number (NIN) and had to pass through a portion of the road where the governor’s brother, who happens to be the contractor, was carrying out construction work.

According to him, he parked his car across the road and attempted to cross over the other lane, when Uche Uzodimma held him and started beating him. He thereafter ordered some thugs who were with him to deal with the journalist and stood by watching his thugs beat Mr. Nwadike until he lost consciousness when one of them hit him at the back of his neck, following which he passed out. He was later revived and taken to the hospital by bystanders.

Mr. Nwadike was quite surprised by the attack on him as other motorists were also driving through the road and none of them was stopped or harassed in any way.

In a related development, MRA has called on governments at all levels in Nigeria to adopt appropriate policies and make the necessary investments to get all Nigerians connected to the Internet while ensuring their safety online regardless of age, gender, social or economic status.

In a statement to commemorate this year’s Safer Internet Day, the organisation contended that connecting all Nigerians to the Internet while ensuring their safety online would put the government on track to fulfilling its principal role, in accordance with Section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution which states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”.

It’s Communications Officer, Mr. Idowu Adewale, noted in the statement that “given the profound transformative impact of the Internet on the lives of individuals and societies around the world over the last few decades, it is clear that in today’s digitized world, lack of access to the Internet  has far reaching negative implications and consequences for those who are deprived of access, not just in terms of the quality of lives that they have, but also in terms of their livelihoods and political participation, among other ways”.

Launched in February 2004, Safer Internet Day seeks to create a safer and a better Internet, where everyone is empowered to use technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively.

Mr. Adewale argued that an important first step by the government in seeking to connect everyone to the Internet would be to take measures, including by adopting laws and policies through multi-stakeholder processes, which will ensure that Nigerians feel sufficiently safe online and are able to enjoy all the benefits that the Internet provides.

He said such confidence building measures, which would cost the government very little or nothing, could then be followed by media literacy and digital literacy programmes to raise awareness about the dangers in the online environment and provide members of the public with the knowledge and tools to keep themselves safe online with their increased ability to identify the dangers that exist online and take necessary measures to safeguard themselves.

Mr. Adewale urged the government to develop a broad-based strategy to address other barriers standing in the way of citizens getting online, including economic, social, political and cultural challenges, adding that “the measures and policies to be adopted should pay special attention to the needs and interests of marginalized communities in Nigeria who are most impacted by the reality of digital exclusion.”

“MRA calls on the Federal Government to create a digital environment where all Nigerians can get online, not only to enable them to exercise and enjoy their rights, but also to boost social and economic development in the country while enhancing the possibility of political participation by all Nigerians,” he said.





Posts Carousel

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Latest Posts

Top Authors

Most Commented

Featured Videos