The National Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) views the absurdities of the ongoing Operation Python Dance 2 of the Nigerian Army in the south-eastern part of the country with dissatisfaction and disenchantment, especially the unnecessary clashes with innocent citizens. Of grave concern to us was the invasion of our Press Centre in Umuahia, Abia State by Soldiers on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 barely few days after three journalists were brutalized by the officials of Department of State Security in Osun State.
The NUJ had on several occasions initiated moves towards fostering safety of journalists and building synergy with agents of the state but unfortunately, brutalization and impunity by security agents still pervades. There is indeed an overriding need and urgency to promote safety of journalists and fight impunity against them, in order to create the enabling environment they require to optimally perform their fundamental functions in a democracy.
We condemn in its totality the conduct of the Army at the NUJ Press Centre in Umuahia, Abia State yesterday and demand for immediate investigation into this macabre act.
(1) The Union notes the apologies extended to the Abia State Council of the Union by the General Officer Commanding 82 Division of the Nigerian Army and the Commander of 14 Brigade of the Army.
We however demand for an unqualified apology from the Chief of Army Staff for the dastardly conduct of his soldiers, and call for punishment for those soldiers who carried out the attack.
(2) Although it may be impossible to estimate the extent of trauma caused our members by this despicable act, we however wish to demand for the payment of medical bills for all those who sustained physical injuries.
(3) We also demand for full compensation for all the furniture and office equipment destroyed by the soldiers at the Press Centre as well as all damaged gadgets belonging to members. Items seized must also be returned.
(4) For our members to trust the Army and deal with them in their professional capacities henceforth in Abia State and elsewhere, we wish to extract the commitment of the Army to ensure always the safety and security of journalists who cover their activities.
Shuaibu Usman Leman