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Why Governor Umahi’s Ban of Journalists From Ebonyi Might Be Bordering On Dictatorship

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Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi had on Wednesday banned the Correspondents of The Sun newspaper, Chijioke Agwu, and the Vanguard Newspaper, Peter Okutu, from entering Government house and Government facilities in the State for life.

The executive governor made the pronouncement while speaking in a statewide live broadcast aired on the State’s Television and Radio stations. He expressed his displeasure with the leadership of Nigeria Union of Journalists NUJ and blamed them for condoning the unprofessionalism of their members.

Recall, Umahi had gotten Chijioke Agwu arrested last week Saturday over some unfounded Lassa Fever outbreak reports. Though the journalist was released days later, Mr Peter Okutu of Vanguard Newspaper was also arrested over a report he did on alleged military invasion of a community in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of the state. He has also been released now.

Governor Umahi said he could no longer guarantee the safety of Journalists within his State as his residents are angry and could unleash mayhem on them, should they continue to create unnecessary panic in the state.

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His full statement:

“I want to say that I am very displeased with the president and leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists and I am going to seize their allowances for two months because they have failed to discipline their members.

“Ebonyi State is no longer a dumping ground. Only the other day, Chijioke Agwu (referring to The Sun Correspondent) wrote that Lassa Fever is killing Ebonyi people in droves and few days back, Mr Peter Okutu of Vanguard did his own.

Okutu is fond of degrading Ebonyi State, and I don’t know why my officials have allowed him to continue to do that, because he is not from Ebonyi State. I want to ban him for life with Chijioke Agwu. I don’t want to see them anywhere in any Government facility.

“We are not begging you to give us good report, because the only person that gives good or bad report is God. We are all accountable to him. If you think that Ebonyi State is a dumping ground, try it again.

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“If you think you have the pen, we have the koboko. Let’s leave the Court alone. Ebonyi people are very angry with the press and let me warn that I won’t be able to control them or know when they unleash mayhem on you, if you continue to write to create panic in the State.

“I want you to write it that way, that I said, press in Ebonyi is trying to create another COVID that is more dangerous and that is to create panic in our people.

“The other one wrote that cholera has killed 20 people in Ohaukwu. If you try it again, I may not know when Ebonyians may react. This is important for the NUJ to know.

“If you are an Ebonyi man or live in Ebonyi and you don’t feel our pains, it is a shame on you. Maybe, the press people claim they are untouchable. I have reported to the National President of NUJ, I have reported to State leadership of NUJ and I have reported to the public. Now, the dye is cast. May God save us, in the course of time”

Now, while I am personally against peddling of fake news and the circulation of same, I find the Governor’s actions and statements inappropriate, inciting and dictatorial to say the least.

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I mean when did Governors or even Presidents have the right to arrest a journalist in a democracy? And why threatening them with violence because you don’t like what they reported about? I think the court is there to settle such cases. And oh sir, you ban them for life? Your governorship is not permanent sir. Another government might just welcome them with open arms.

You may also read: Kebbi State Frees 111 Prisoners Over COVID-19

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