Police arrest journalist who criticised Ortom for ‘mishandling’ ethnic conflict

Officers of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) have reportedly arrested a state house correspondent of Peoples Daily, an Abuja-based newspaper, Sunday Egena Odeh.

WITHIN NIGERIA learnt that the journalist was arrested alongside his cousin, Johnson Ubeh on Friday, on the orders of the Benue state government for criticising Samuel Ortom, the governor. But Johnson was reportedly released later.

The journalist, Odeh who is a native of Benue state was reportedly whisked away from his base in the outskirts of Abuja to Makurdi, the state capital.

Odeh had authored a statement on April 7 as president of Igede Media Professionals (AIMPs) blaming Ortom for the escalation of the Bonta-Ukpute conflict in the state.

He also asked government appointees from the Igede ethnic group to resign from the governor’s cabinet.

“Since last year when the crisis erupted, we have been mounting pressure on Governor Samuel Ortom to resolve the issues at the centre of the dispute; namely, boundary demarcation, with a view to putting an enduring end to the frequent clashes over land dispute by the Bonta and Ukpute communities,” Ode wrote.

“Only about a fortnight ago while empathizing with him over an alleged assassination attempt on his life, we reminded the governor to spare a thought for the people of the two communities who had been facing untold hardships due to the lingering communal war.

“Unfortunately, our suggestions have fallen on deaf ears, or at best had attracted name-calling by the governor’s aide who preferred to see us as a faceless group.

“Accordingly, for not caring enough about the lives of our people who have been slaughtered in their hundreds, their houses burnt down and farm produce destroyed, especially following the renewed attacks that have continued unabated in the past six weeks, we are calling on all appointees of Igede extraction in Governor Ortom’s cabinet to pull out with immediate effect.

“We face an existential threat whose enormity has now been brought to the fore by the treatment given to the soldiers on patrol along the Ukpute-Bonta road. This has simply revealed the fire we have been facing as a people over time.”

In the statement, Odeh commended Ibrahim Attahiru, chief of army staff for the “uncommon discipline, professionalism” he showed in handling the attack against soldiers militias in the state.

Emmanuel Ogbeche, chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), federal capital territory chapter, said the police arrested Odeh based on a petition by the state government and following his alleged refusal to honour their invitation.

“However, assurances have been given of his safety and imminent release this afternoon,” Ogbeche said.

Attempts to reach Terver Akase, Ortom’s chief press secretary, were unsuccessful as his phone line was not reachable.

When contacted, the police public relations officer in the state, Catherine Anene said she is not aware of the Odeh’s arrest by its officers.


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