THE Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi has apologized to the two journalists he banned in Ebonyi, calling on them and their organizations to join him in the development of the state.
The two journalists, Mr. Peter Okutu of the Vanguard newspaper and the Correspondent of the SUN newspaper, Mr. Chijioke Agwu were last week Wednesday banned from entering the state Government House and all government facilities.
In a broadcast in Abakaliki, Tuesday, Umahi said the incident was unfortunate, and advised the journalists to “please cross-check your information before publication. There are certain write-ups that people are not happy about. But let everybody down tools in love and work together.
“The unfortunate incident was not intentional. But I am asking everybody to disregard what has happened; we are all partners in progress and let us work together.”
The governor who had extended an invitation to the reporters to hear his apology, said that, “as a father, when you beat a child with one hand, you bring the child back with the other hand.
“I believe strongly that if anybody wants to intentionally bring you down he can’t pull you down standing, he will certainly go down with you. And you may even rise above him. But the single way to be happy in life is to be happy with success. I invite the press to partner with us and help us build the state.”
The Governor had faced a barrage of criticisms from many quarters after he announced the banning of the two journalists.
In a statement, “Stop This Impunity Against Journalists,” the National Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Shuaibu Usman Leman, described the ban as a joke.
The statement stated: “We regret to note that Umahi is ingloriously attaining notoriety in his continuous harassment, detentions and insults on journalists who dare to report what he feels are against the interest of his government.
“The NUJ has repeatedly cautioned against such acts of impunity and stressed that it is worth noting that press freedom is key to achieving credible democracy and this freedom includes the right to seek and receive information from all available sources to enable formulation of proper opinions.”
The travail of the journalists had started when the Chairman of Ohaukwu Local Government Area, Mr. Clement Odah, ordered the arrest of the Vanguard newspaper reporter, Okutu, over a report on military invasion of Umuogodoakpu-Ngbo.
Men of the State Anti-Robbery Sqaud of Ebonyi Police Command, arrested Okutu at Woodberry Hotel, Abakaliki.
The Sun newspaper reporter Agwu, was arrested by the police on the orders of Umahi, following a report on Lassa Fever outbreak in the state.
A statement by the chairman of Ebonyi NUJ, Tony Nwizi, stated, “the arrest is an affront to the freedom of the press and we can’t take it anymore. If anyone feels aggrieved, the only legal option is to seek redress and not to collude with security agencies to harras, arrest, and detain journalists.”
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in a statement by its media and publicity secretary, Emma Powerful, “wondered why the governor would turn a blind eye during Fulani herdsmen invasion of the state, as well as soldiers’ and police killing of innocent people in his state only to resort to intimidation and arrest of innocent journalists for reporting the truth.”