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NUJ Gives Shell Ultimatum over Detention of Journalists

NUJ Gives Shell Ultimatum over Detention of Journalists

From Omon-Julius Onabu in Warri, 09.05.2008

The Warri Chapel of the Nigeria Union Journalists (NUJ) yesterday demanded a written apology from the Anglo-Ducth oil company, Shell  Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) over its alleged role  in the arrest and detention of journalists at the Utorogun Gas Plant in Delta State.

About 15 journalists from several states across the Niger-Delta were last Tuesday  while on a  working tour of Iwhrekan, an oil producing community in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State , arrested by a company of soldiers attached to the JTF.

Members of the Environmental Rights Action (ERA), an NGO, as well as the Iwhrekan community Traditional Head, Chief Ogba Riegbu and Barrister Akporido Siemuri and other community leaders were among those detained under the rain for hours allegedly by SPDC security personnel who said they were ìacting on orders from above.

The Union vowed to liaise with its parent and sister bodies across the country to take tougher action against  SPDC if it failed to tender an unreserved apology to the union within 72 hours.  

In a  strongly-worded statement, signed by  Comrade Ben Dunno and Comrade Mike Ikogwu, the Chapel Chairman and Secretary, respectively, the Union also gave similar condition to the Joint Task Force (JTF) for allowing itself to be muscled and manipulated by the oil company. 
 
The Union also indicated that it might be compelled to seek legal redress over the unwarranted action of the SPDC, which appears to be aimed at intimidating members of the Nigerian Press. 
 
The NUJ statement, which gave reasons for its tough stance, read in part:  “The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Warri Correspondents’ Chapel, has unequivocally condemned the arrest and subsequent detention of 15 journalists under inhuman conditions on Tuesday, September 2, 2008 in Iwhrekan, Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State while on legitimate assignment. 

Six members of the Warri Correspondents’ Chapel of the NUJ were among the 15 Journalists arrested and the Union sees it as a slap on the journalism profession. It took the intervention of well-meaning individuals from within and outside Delta State to secure their freedom at about 10:00pm after being subjected to both physical and psychological trauma.

“We are taken more aback that the JTF was said to have acted at the instance of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) even though SPDC denied the fact that they had a hand in the arrest and detention. “During the unwarranted detention, the executive members of the Warri Correspondents’ Chapel (NUJ) contacted the Media Coordinator of the Joint Media Campaign Office of the JTF, Lt. Col. Rabe Abubakar, who said that he had mandated the detachment that arrested them to release our members immediately. “However, to our utter dismay, four hours after Abubakar’s instruction, the SPDC security men still held on to our members, which lends credence to the culpability of SPDC.”

http://www.thisdayonline.com/nview.php?id=121651

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