AUSTIN OYIBODE, EDITOR
An overzealous and trigger happy police officer and member of the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) attached to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta state on Wednesday beat up a Delta journalist, Godwin Udoh of The Nigerian Xpress Newspaper, at the premises of the Delta State House of Assembly.
The incidence occurred after Governor Okowa had presented the 2020 budget to the State House of Assembly and was at the entrance to the chambers briefing journalists on the content, estimate and the revenue sources where the 2020 budget would be funded.
Prior to the brutal show of force by the gun trotting security personnel, all journalists had positioned themselves waiting for the governor at the entrance of the chamber. The journalists comprised mainstream, television, radio and online who were prepared to record live the outcome of the budget presented by the governor.
Following the pressure that mounted at the entrance, there was a push from journalists while the security men remained stationed close to the car of the governor. The loud speaker that was amplifying the voice of the governor was held up by a member of the technical crew of the governor’s press unit to allow journalists record the voice of the governor.
But along the line, the loud speaker was moved from where it was to another area and as journalists attempted moving along to get the governor’s words recorded, a member of the CTU attached to the governor blocked them, warning them never to move beyond where they were. One of such among others was Godwin Udoh.
He was confronted by the officer, who warned him not to attempt leaving where he was or face action from them. His words did not go down well with journalists who felt he was preventing them from recording the governor’s statement as that is where they would make their stories.
The statement of the CTU officer, whose name could not be ascertained as at press time, caused an uproar among journalists who felt it was wrong for the officer to block journalists from recording the governor’s statement when it was obvious that no journalists was close to the governor’s car nor attempted touching the car which it was believed they were protecting at the time of the governor’s briefing.
Udoh, who was confronted by the officer, among others, reacted sharply explaining his annoyance and displeasure to the officer. Udoh thereafter moved away from the scene. But the officer, who ostensibly was working based on instruction from his superior, approached Udoh from where he went to, dashed him a hot slap and other officers joined and beat giving him the biggest embarrassment of his life in the presence of everyone at the premises of the state house of assembly.
Explaining his version of the incidence, Udoh, a member of the Indigenous Correspondents Chapel, said: “We were recording when the man holding the speaker moved from where he was to another direction. As expected, we moved along with him so as to record the governor’s words.
“Then, a police officer, a DSP, wearing a counter terrorism uniform, the name I cannot recall at the moment, told me to shift back but I said I was not moving forward, that I’m just standing in one place.
“But he pushed me away with the gun. He said if I talk he would beat me up. He used his communication gadget to pierce my eyes and my mouth. Then, I told him, please, don’t intimidate me. That was when, one of them standing behind him, came and started slapping me in the presence of everybody.”
Reacting to the development, chairman of the Indigenous Correspondent Chapel, Barth Ozah, said the action of the police officer was condemnable, calling on the governor to call his orderlies to order as the police officer cannot prevent journalists from carrying out their legitimate duties.
He said the 1999 constitution as amended empowers journalists to carry out their responsibilities within the parameters of the law, adding that since the journalists were carrying out their functions within the law, it was unlawful for the officer to slap him when it was obvious that he didn’t go against the law.
Meanwhile, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa had presented a N389.1billion to the state house of assembly for the 2020 fiscal year. The budget has N171.5billion as recurrent expenditure and N217.5billion as capital expenditure. The recurrent expenditure is 44.08 percent while capital expenditure is 55.92 percent.
In contrast with the 2019 budget, the 2020 budget is N1billion lower than that of 2019 which was N390.3billion. The 2019 budget had N157billion as recurrent expenditure while N223.2billion as capital expenditure.