For several hours yesterday, operatives of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) detachment from Ibesikpo/Asutan Police Division, Akwa Ibom State, detained the State Correspondent of The Punch Newspaper.
The Correspondent, Etim Effiong Ekpimah, who has since been released, said the Police tampered with the information he gathered while trying to cover an accident scene.
It was gathered that the policemen embarrassed and harassed the journalist while trying to elicit more information from the accident victim’s son on how his father’s tricycle (keke) rammed into a stationary van loaded with sachet water truck, leading to his death.
“A Policeman, who was on mufti, gave the order that the journalist be arrested and his telephone seized for trying to gather information about the accident”, a witness told our Correspondent.
All entreaties for the Police to let Ekpimah go or speak with the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Cordelia Nwawe, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), fell on deaf ears as they arrested and detained him behind the counter, before taking him to one of their offices, where he was ordered to write statement.
One of the policemen, who rained all sorts of threats on the Correspondent, forcefully seized his cell phone where he recorded interaction with the victim’s son, scrutinised and deleted the interview he had with the lad.
The state Police Commissioner, Mr. Murtala Mani, regretted the harassment and said he had been trying to reach out to the Divisional Police Officers (DPO) in-charge of the area, but his telephone line was not going through. He said, “I am very sorry about that. I will surely get to the boy who did that to you.”
Condemning what he described as “frequent harassment and intimidation” of media workers in the State by officers and men of the Force, the Chairman, Correspondent Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom State Council, Comrade Dennis Udoma, has reviewed the relationship with the Police in the State and announced boycott of Police activities and events.
He pointed out that that the PPRO, Cordelia Nwawe, had been in the habit of throwing tantrums at journalists she personally invited to cover the Police events, recalling that the Delta-born ASP had in recent times harassed and poured invectives on Vanguard Correspondent before ordering him out of her office for daring to advise her to always control her emotions.
The resolution to boycott the activities of the Police was a fallout of the monthly congress of the Chapel in which members flayed the unfriendly disposition of Police to journalists, stressing that if immediate action was not taken to protect media workers, the Police would go beyond harassment to direct shooting at unarmed civilians.
Calling on the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase, to intervene, the journalists demanded that the PPRO should be redeployed and reassigned a different position away from the image-making job as such responsibility was completely alien to somebody with over-bloated ego like Nwawe.
– Iniobong Ekponta, Uyo