By Douglas Okoro
Abakaliki – Two journalists, Mr Charles Otu of the Guardian newspaper and Mr Samuel Nweze, Publisher of the People’s Leader, have been attacked in Abakaliki, Ebonyi.
The Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Jude Madu, confirmed the two incidents and said that the police have launched investigation to unravel the motive behind the attacks.
“The reports of the attacks on two journalists are before the police and we have launched investigation to unravel the motive behind the attacks and identities of those involved”, Madu said.
Otu told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in Abakaliki on Saturday that suspected political thugs accosted him at about 6.p.m. on Friday at Vanco Junction in Abakaliki and started beating him with clubs and other dangerous weapons.
He said the beating attracted passers-by, “but the thugs threatened to shoot anybody that interfered.’’
He said he was later abducted and taken to the `Ebonyi Cabinet Office’ where he was asked to write an undertaking never to write any story against the state government or be silenced permanently.
He said the thugs later drove him to the Kpirikpiri Divisional Police Headquarters.
“I was asked by the group to write a statement that I was rescued by the Ekubaraoha Youth Assembly from a mob that was attacking me.
“The thugs who accosted me at the Vanco Junction arrived in a 16-seater Toyota bus with the inscription of Ekubaraoha Youth Assembly.
“They accused me of being a threat to the state government and threatened to silence me unless I signed a written undertaken never to write anything against the state government.
“I collapsed at the police station having lost consciousness due to the severe beating they gave me but I was revived at the emergency ward of the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki”, Otu said.
Similarly, Nwaeze, Publisher of the People’s Leader, said he was shot by gun men at about 7.p.m. on Friday, June 2, in front of his office at 2, Awolowo Street in Abakaliki.
“I narrowly escaped death. I was lucky the assailants who came on a motorcycle missed the target; the story would have been a different one.
“I heard a bang and I felt sharp pains and blood gushing out from my back.’’
Nwaeze added that he saw two men running with guns in their hands; “it was then that I realised that I had been attacked by drive-by shooters.”
He said he had reported the incident to the police.
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Ebonyi council, condemned the attacks.
Chairman of the union in the state, Mrs Veronica Oshim, called on security agencies to rise to the challenge.
She told NAN that journalists must be provided with safe and secure environment to inform and educate the public.
She said that unprovoked attacks on journalists were inimical to the development of democracy and also threatened press freedom.
“It is with shock and disbelief that we received the brutal and mindless attacks on Mr Charles Otu of the Guardian newspaper and Samuel Nweze, Publisher of the People’s Leader, an Ebonyi based tabloid.
“We condemn these senseless, unprovoked and barbaric attacks on two of our members.
“We call on the police and other security agencies to rise to the challenge of protection of lives and property of every citizen of the state.
“NUJ wishes to remind the merchants of death and evil that journalists in Ebonyi will never be distracted or intimidated by their machinations as they will always use their platform to expose evil through sincere and objective reporting