By Jim Pressman, Abuja
A common saying among reporters is that ‘dogs do not bite dogs.’ However as the seething undercurrent of bad blood between the FCT Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) would seem to have reached a new peak these past few days, with some divisions allegedly being created by the Council’s upcoming election of a new leadership being exploited to maximum advantage by what an insider described as “some vested interests within and outside the professional and labour union media practitioners in the Federal Capital,” FCT minster Bala Mohammed, himself a journalist, may have decided that dogs could eat dogs.
Early afternoon Thursday June 28, three men and a lady drove into the Utako Secretariat and Press Centre and without a word to anybody, began to take pictures of the place, even as another marked the brick walls of the new Bush Bar being erected on the premises for the relaxation of journalists and friends of the media in the evenings and on weekends.
When journalists tried to stop the gap – toothed, light complexioned man with the camera, he threatened fire and brimstone if he was stopped from carrying out what he said was “an order based on a written request from within the NUJ.”
After a heated argument doused somewhat by another member of the team in a light blue shirt with curled hair, the team left with their camera, which some angry reporters had attempted to seize.
On the following day, Friday, however it had become clear that the team had simply made a tactical the previous day, as they returned fully armed and before you could say ‘Bala Mohammed’ both the old structure and the new one being put up to make space for a passage had been torn down.
• FCT minister Bala Mohammed
Eye-witness reports put it this way: “The secretariat came under the bulldozers of the Development Control of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), allegedly on the orders of the FCT minister, Sen. Bala Mohammed. An official who simply identified himself as Mr. Bature, the District Officer for Utako, said he was acting on the orders of the FCT Minister, even as he shouted: ‘nobody can stop me from doing my work, even if you are the media or whatever you call yourself!’
Accompanied by a truck load of armed policemen, apparently to forestall the previous day’s stoppage by journalists present, Bature was said to have also instructed the policemen to manhandle some photojournalists that were trying to take snapshots of the demolition exercise.Theyhad their cameras seized and the team left three of them: Rotimi who came with also Osasona of National Mirror Newspapers and Gbenga Olamikan of the Vanguard, badly beaten and are now receiving treatment at a private clinic.
The cameras of the duo which were later recovered from the office of the agency were badly damaged with their memories torn out of the equipment.
The NUJ in a statement said the demolition of structures in its premises is an affront on press freedom and abuse of power by officials of the FCDA and their notorious Development Control Unit, stressing that the Council would ‘pursue the matter until justice is served.’
Acting Chairman of the Council, Abdulrasheed Abdulkareem, who signed the statement, described the incident as ‘unfortunate and one of the many sad developments against journalists in the country.’
Abdulkareem listed items lost in the unfortunate incident to include: six transparent fridges, a four-foot high Thermocool freezer, a 32-inch LCD set and several plastic chairs and tables. Other items include several crates of drinks, glasses, and a stereo set.
The Acting Chairman further stated that the Union would ensure that the Development Control Office is made to compensate for all that was lost during the demolition, even as he called for the sanction of the police officer who ordered that journalists be assaulted.