Vanguard Journalist’s Death: NUJ picks holes in police’ account, demands independent inquiry

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“There are so many disjointed or many missing links to the story that are being peddled. For us at the NUJ, we have studied this carefully, we are going to issue a statement and a petition. But before then, one of the resolutions we have reached is for an interdependent inquiry into the death of Mr Tordue Salem.”

The Nigeria Union of Journalists, Abuja Chapter, has rejected the account of the police on the circumstances surrounding the disappearance and subsequent death of Vanguard Newspaper reporter, Tordue Salem.The Chairman of the NUJ FCT council, Emmanuel Ogbeche, while receiving a letter from the House of Representatives Press Corps at the NUJ council secretariat on Friday, said the account of the police was untenable and inconsistent.Mr Salem, who covered the lower chamber, was found dead on Thursday in Abuja about a month after he was declared missing.

The NPF spokesperson, Frank Mba, on Friday announced that Mr Salem was killed by accident by one Itoro Clement, the driver of the vehicle.Mr Mba spoke while parading the suspect at the police headquarters in Abuja.He said the suspect who was driving a 2004 Model Camry with number plate BWR 243 BK confessed to have hit Mr Salem about 10:00 p.m. on the night of 13 October around Mabushi area in Abuja, but ran away.

Mr Ogbeche said the latest development is different from the initial account by the police that six persons were being investigated for the disappearance of Mr Salem.He called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to set up an independent inquiry into the death of the journalist.

According to him, inquiry should involve an autopsy to determine the time of death and the actual cause of death.“There are so many disjointed or many missing links to the story that are being peddled. For us at the NUJ, we have studied this carefully, we are going to issue a statement and a petition. But before then, one of the resolutions we have reached is for an interdependent inquiry into the death of Mr Tordue Salem,” he said.“The autopsy is going to tell us the time— and for those that have had the opportunity of viewing Mr Salem’s at the morgue, it does not indicate that he died about four weeks ago.”He said the union is holding the management of Vanguard Newspapers responsible “because it is surprising that it is the only media organisation that was privy to the discovery of Mr Tordue Salem.”

Mr Ogbeche harped on the need for the international community to monitor the investigation and the outcome to ensure that sanctions are dished out appropriately.The Chairperson of the Corps, Grace Ike, while reading the letter from the corps to the NUJ Chairman, said the police had earlier claimed Mr Salem was in their custody, noting that the latest news of hit and run was surprising.“Going by accounts of those who were invited by the police Intelligence Response Team, the police had Tordue in Custody and was investigating him for sundry allegations.“However, after the series of protests led by your humble self to the Force Headquarters, with no information as to whether he was dead, we are shocked to hear the police saying that he was killed by a hit and run driver.

“In the estimation of the Corps, our colleague may have been killed in police custody under suspicious and questionable circumstances, and for that, we demand justice,” the letter reads in part.Legislative interventionOn Tuesday, the House of Representatives had called on the Inspector General of Police, Usman Akali, to ensure that the journalist was found.That resolution was a sequel to a motion of urgent public importance moved by the minority leader, Ndudi Elumelu (PDP, Delta) on the floor of the House.Last month, the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila had said the House will not stop until Mr Salem was found.

The Senate also passed a resolution calling on the security agencies to find the late journalist.Despite all the interventions, the journalist was not found alive.It was a sombre atmosphere at the House of Representatives press centre on Friday, as journalists could not contain their emotions.Benue journalists mournMeanwhile, some journalists in Makurdi, the Benue capital, on Friday, expressed shock over the death of Mr Salem.Mr Salem was a native of Benue State.Speaking to NAN, the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Zone D Vice President, Chris Atsaka, strongly condemned the killing of the Vanguard reporter.Mr Astaka, a former Benue state NUJ council chairman, described the abduction and subsequent killing of Tordue as, “most unfortunate” and urged security agencies to unravel those behind the dastardly act.

He said the union did everything within its powers to fight for Mr Salem while he was still held captive by his abductors but regretted that the spirited efforts ended in agony.“This calls to test the will of security agencies to protect the lives and property of the citizens. Late Tordue Salem’s case is one that the security must unravel the circumstances with the view to exposing the perpetrators and equally bring them to justice.

“This is highly condemnable, vexatious and painful to say the least. It shows no one is safe, particularly journalists, who like late Salem, went to work on that fateful day and didn’t return,” he said.Also, the Benue Correspondent of the Sun Newspaper Mrs Rose Ejembi, strongly condemned the killing of the journalist.Mr Ejembi said the death of Mr Salem clearly showed the dangers journalists faced on a daily basis across the world.On his part, Emmanuel Gwaza of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), regretted that the attacks on journalists was fast becoming a recurring decimal.“As we mourn the passage of our dear colleague, let his murderers be apprehended and be brought to justice.

”Also, Hope Abba, a correspondent of Daily Trust in Benue, called on law enforcement agencies to unravel those behind late Salem’s abduction and subsequent killing and bring them to book.“Salem was one journalist who knew his job too well, though we are yet to know exactly those behind his death but his case establishes how unsafe the practise is in this clime.“May God rest his soul and give his family fortitude to bear the loss,” Mrs Abba added.

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