By Philo Ezewu
A police officer and member of the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) attached to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta state, together with his colleagues, on Wednesday, beat up a Delta based journalist, Godwin Udoh, of The Nigerian Xpress Newspaper, at the premises of the Delta State House of Assembly.
The incident occurred after Governor Okowa had presented the 2020 budget to the State House of Assembly and was at the entrance to the chambers briefing journalists on the content, estimate and the revenue sources, where the 2020 budget would be funded.
Prior to the show of force by the security personnel, all journalists had positioned themselves, waiting for the governor at the entrance of the chamber. The journalists comprised mainstream, television, radio and online, who were prepared to record live the outcome of the budget presented by the governor.
Following the pressure that mounted at the entrance, there was a push from journalists, while the security men remained stationed close to the car of the governor. The loud speaker that was amplifying the voice of the governor was held up by a member of the technical crew of the governor’s press unit to allow journalists record the voice of the governor.
But along the line, the loud speaker was moved from where it was to another area and, as journalists attempted moving along to get the governor’s voice recorded, a member of the CTU attached to the governor, blocked them, warning them never to move beyond where they were.
Meanwhile, Godwin Udoh was confronted by the officer, who warned him not to attempt leaving where he was or face action from them. His words did not go down well with journalists, who felt he was preventing them from recording the governor’s statement as that was where they would make their stories.
The statement of the CTU officer, whose name could not be ascertained as at press time, caused an uproar among journalists, who felt it was wrong for the officer to block journalists from recording the governor’s statement, when it was obvious that no journalists was close to the governor’s car or attempted touching the car, which, it was believed, they were protecting.
Udoh, who was confronted by the officer, among others, reacted sharply, explaining his annoyance and displeasure to the officer. Udoh, thereafter, moved away from the scene. But the officer, who ostensibly was working based on instruction from his superior, approached Udoh from where he went to, dashed him a hot slap and other officers joined, and gave him the biggest embarrassment of his life in the presence of everyone at the premises of the state house of assembly.
Explaining his version of the incident, Udoh, a member of the Indigenous Correspondents Chapel, said: “We were recording when the man holding the speaker moved from where he was to another direction. As expected, we moved along with him so as to record the governor’s words.
“Then, a police officer, a DSP, wearing a counter terrorism uniform, the name I cannot recall at the moment, told me to shift back, but I said I was not moving forward, that I’m just standing in one place.
“But he pushed me away with the gun. He said if I talked, he would beat me up. He used his communication gadget to pierce my eyes and my mouth. Then, I told him, please, don’t intimidate me. That was when one of them standing behind him came and started slapping me in the presence of everybody.”
Reacting to the development, chairman of the Indigenous Correspondent Chapel, Barth Ozah, said the action of the police officer was condemnable, calling on the governor to call his orderlies to order, as the police officer cannot prevent journalists from carrying out their legitimate duties.
He said the 1999 Constitution as amended empowers journalists to carry out their responsibilities within the parameters of the law; adding that since the journalists were carrying out their functions within the law, it was unlawful for the officer to slap him when it was obvious he didn’t go against the law.