A correspondent of the Punch Newspapers in Imo, Chidiebube Okeoma, was on Monday brutalised by Government House security and some policemen attached to Owerri Capital Development Authority (OCDA) for interviewing some widowed street cleaners protesting the non-payment of their stipends.
The women had converged on the gate to Imo Government House on Friday to demand the payment of their salaries.
However, the Chief of Staff to the Governor of Imo, Nnamdi Anyaehie, who ran into the protesting women in front of the Government House gate had promised them their payment would be effected on Monday.
He had assured that as listening government, Governor Hope Uzodimma, was not one that would allow workers, not to talk of women to suffer.
He had also told them that the problem arose because some of them had not provided their account numbers.
However, on Monday the women came back to inquire about the CoS’s promise.
But instead of listening to them, police chased them away.
Okeoma, who went to interview them, was accosted by some policemen who questioned the authority on which he was talking to the women.
All explanations to them that he was doing his legitimate duties were rebuffed as the police bundled him to the office of the Chief Security Officer, CSP Shaba Adamu
The CSO did not listen to him either as the humiliation continued.
Okeoma said that on seeing him, Adamu requested he be detained but on a second thought asked the journalist to explain what he was doing where the women were protesting.
The CSO deleted all the videos and pictures on the correspondent’s phone before freeing him.
Okeoma, who appeared rough and distraught, said he was able to get out of the brutality by God’s intervention as he could have been tagged an unknown gunman.
He said they confiscated his gadgets and attempted to shoot him if he dared say any word.
After beating the journalist, the visibly charged policemen drove him into the governor’s office in Owerri.
The journalist said, ” I was at the government house roundabout where I was covering widows who were protesting their six months non-payment of salaries owed them by the state government.
“While I was there, policemen wielding rifles with thugs from OCDA barged into me after cocking their guns. One of them immediately slapped me while the other punched me in my left eye and immediately took all my gadgets.
“They demanded to know who gave me the permission to cover the protest but in response, I told them that my power to cover the protest was enshrined in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. They immediately dragged me on my waist and put me inside one of their operational vehicles and drove me to Imo state government house.
“The policemen who were harassing and intimidating me in the vehicle matched me like a common criminal to the office of the governor where I was bundled into the office of the government house Chief Security officer, Shaba Adamu.
“On sighting me, Adamu said that I ought to have been detained instead of bringing me to him but I told him that I am not criminal but the Imo state correspondent of The PUNCH newspapers. He requested to know who gave me the permission to cover the protest but I insisted that my roles as a journalist are enshrined in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.
“The policeman then demanded to see the video footages I made and on seeing them he ordered on me gunpoint to delete them which I did. He ordered that my gadgets be released to me afterwards.
He later gave me N5,000—to use and treat myself which I collected at gunpoint—and warned me not to ever repeat it again. I have since taken the money to the police but the police authority didn’t take it.”
Okeoma said that he is still feeling some pains internally owing to the beating the policemen gave him.
The journalist said that he had since reported the development to the state commissioner of police, Abutu Yaro.
Okeoma said that the state commissioner for information and strategy, Declan Emelumba, apologized to him.
Date of Occurrence
Government House security and some policemen attached to Owerri Capital Development Authority