ABUJA – Members of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ ) FCT Council on Monday staged a peaceful protest in from of police force headquarters to prevail on Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali to expedite action in ensuring safe return of the Vanguard journalist, Tordue Salem, who has been missing since Wednesday October 13th 2021.
The journalists dressed in black marched from the Ministry of Women Affairs to force headquarters wielding placards with inscriptions; Enough Is Enough; FreeTordeNow, Journalism Is Not a Crime, Free The Press, Stop Attacking Journalists.
The Chairman of the Council, Emmanuel Ogbeche who submitted a formal petition on behalf of the union called on the Inspector General of Police to step up Intelligence and investigation to unravel the mysterious disappearance of the journalist.
He expressed displeasure at the way and manner police have been handling the matter adding that there is need for police to give information on the whereabouts of the missing colleague since it was formally reported at National Assembly police station.
He condemned the harsh environment where the safety of journalists can no longer be guaranteed despite their constitutional role and responsibility of upholding the fundamental objectives of the constitution.
Receiving the protesters on behalf of IGP the Police Public Relations Officer, CP Frank Mba told the angry journalists that the investigation is in progress and that there is need to maintain silence as not to jeopardise investigation.
He narrated the steps taken so far by the police on the matter and assured them of safe return of the journalist.
According to Mba ”We are as concern as journalists and members of the family. We have commenced investigation and we have done everything humanly and technologically possible to ensure is being found. We have interrogated at least six persons and we have traced the places he visited after he left National Assembly.
“We have spoken with the last person he had encounter with. We are imploring members of the family, public and journalists that this is an active investigations. We have a choice not to speak as not to jeopardise our investigation. This has explained our silence over the time”
Salem, who is a reporter with Vanguard Newspapers was the National Assembly (House of Representatives) Correspondent of the paper. He was last seen on Wednesday, October 13, 2021 and has remained unreachable till date.
The petition read; “The IGP, Sir, as you are aware, a colleague of ours and a journalist of note, Mr. Tordue Henry Salem of the Vanguard Newspapers went missing on Wednesday, October 13, 2021 right in front of the Total Filing Station less than a 100 meters from the Force Headquarters.”
“48 hours after fellow colleagues who cover the House of Representatives realized he had DISAPPEARED, a report was immediately incidented at the House of Reps Police Division. This was followed by a petition to both your office and that of the Director General of the Department of State Security by his employers- Vanguard Media Ltd. This is outside calls by the leadership of the NUJ to senior officers of the Police.
“It is regrettable to note that 12 days after Mr. Tordue Henry Salem DISAPPEARED, nothing much has happened to indicate whether he is alive or dead; whether he is captive of the State, a non-state or an alien.
“The IGP, it is relevant that we remind you that the State owes every Nigerian, particularly a journalist, protection and assurance of safety. Nigeria has continued to fare badly on the Press Freedom Index for six successive years and it will be most unfortunate if the DISAPPEARNCE of Mr. Tordue Henry Salem adds to the poor rating. In 2020, a report of Reporters Without Borders shows that Nigeria went five spots down the Press Freedom Index from 115 to 120 out of 180 countries, with the telling remark that Nigeria remains “one of West Africa’s most dangerous and difficult countries for journalists.”
“Also, a June 2021 report of the Nigeria Union of Journalists and Media Foundation for West Africa revealed that the media industry recorded seven unresolved killings, 300 violations, affecting about 500 journalists, media workers, and media houses in Nigeria.”
“What all these underscore is that the prevailing environment is unsafe, suffocating and dangerous not just for journalists and other media workers but for the sustenance of democracy itself.”
“It is in this wise that we are here to demand that Mr. Tordue Henry Salem not only be found, but that adequate protection be offered journalists going forward. That the culture of harassment, intimidation, brutalization and disappearances ends. Our demand is reinforced by the fact that as we approach 2023, a General Elections year in Nigeria, the political and economic elites become more desperate to hang on to power and because they will not want to be held accountable to the Nigerian people, the media becomes their major target. This culture of impunity should and must be arrested by the Nigeria Police as the primary security agencies as well as other sister agencies.”
“Regarding Mr. Tordue Henry Salem, we demand that the case be transferred to a Special Unit of the IGP. While we appreciate the efforts of the FCT Command, the magnitude of the disappearance demands for a highly tactical, focused and coordinated Unit under the Office of the IGP.”
“We further demand confidential briefing with his family, leadership of the Union and his employers to calm frayed nerves, while we assure of our cooperation in the investigation.”
“Let us reiterate that for every journalist that is harassed, assaulted, disappears and murdered, the constitutional guarantee as contained in Chapter 22 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 as Amended is threatened, democracy is weakened and good governance is impossible. The IGP it is for these reasons and more, that your office urgently needs to provide answer, which is locating and reuniting Mr. Tordue Henry Salem with his family”