Army Harassing Journalists And The Public Over Missing General – NUJ
The Plateau State chapter of Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ), has threatened to withdraw its members from the ongoing military search and rescue operation of the missing general, Muhammed Alkali.
The group also expressed concern over what it described as arbitrary harassment and intimidation of members of public, Premium Times reports.
NUJ made its position in a press statement signed by its chairman and secretary, Paul Jatau and Peter Amine respectively.
“The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Plateau State Council is concerned about the way and manner the Nigeria Army is going about its search for missing Maj. Gen. Idris Alkali (rtd).
“The abitrary harassment, intimidation and arrest of members of the public as part of their search is a thing of worry to the NUJ.
“We recall that at the commencement of the evacuation of water from Dura Du pond in Jos South, the Army told the public that they have credible intelligence that the missing general’s car was in the pond and true to their word, the car was retrieved from the pond.
“We expect them to use the same intelligence they used to locate the car to go after the suspects as they continue the search for Gen. Alkali or his body.
“We are perturbed because innocent people are not spared by the crude method they have employed thereby instilling fear and overheating the polity.
“The Army on Saturday in a statement, assured the public that they will exhibit high level professionalism according to international standard in the search but what is on display contradicts the assurances.
“The same Saturday, a member of our Union, a reporter of the Punch Newspaper was arrested alongside other persons by the army and was detained for 28 hours in Rukuba Barracks as part of the search.
“We wish to state unequivocally that while journalists support the search for the missing senior officer, indeed the Nigeria Union Of Journalists, Plateau State Council will not hesitate in withdrawing its members from covering their activities if the intimidation and harrasment continues,” the statement highlighted.
According to the Punch reporter who was released Monday morning, he and 36 others were, on Sunday, arrested at Anne Breeze Restaurant, Rayfied area of Jos South Local Government Area of the state, where he went to buy food.
“I came back last night after spending about 28 hours behind bars over the Jos missing Gen. Mohammed Idris Alkali (retd). We were 28 men and 9 women (37).
“I went to buy food by 9:00 p.m. on Saturday (curfew starts by 10:00) at a popular Anne Breeze Restaurant when soldiers in two lorry trucks (about 30 of them) swooped on the place, shot indiscriminately at sight and arrested every human being they sighted.
“Even my identification that I’m a journalist didn’t help matters. Twenty-eight of us were kept in an uncompleted building and I had no access to my family, editors and colleagues because they took our phones,” the reporter narrated.
When contacted on the matter, deputy director, army public relations, Kayode Ogunsanya, said the journalist was found in a wrong place, though he did not specifically provide the name of the place.
“The journalist was found at a wrong place at the wrong time. When l recognised him on my own, he was later released. He spent less that 20hrs, as against 28hrs he claimed,” Mr Ogunsanya said.
Mr Alkali was declared missing on September 3, when he was traveling from Abuja to Bauchi.
After a few weeks, the army received intelligence that the general’s body or car was in the pond.
The draining of water from the pond was earlier protested by the women of the community who appeared in black, claiming that the pond has ancestral inclination.
Their protest was unsuccessful.
The car of the missing general and two others cars were found.
A blood-stained T-Shirt and a boxer short, believed to belong to the general, were also found in the car on a Saturday evening by a combined security team.
On Wednesday, the army in the early hours of that day, cordoned off the community and arrested 30 suspects in connection to the missing general but promised not to take any military action on the community.
The army on Friday, dismissed the rumour that two corpses were discovered in the pond.