Tuesday, March 20th 2018, will remain indelible in my journalism career as a media Correspondent in Delta State. I was assigned by my head office in Abuja on an unscheduled visit to an abandoned ICT CENTRE funded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
I arrived the main gate of the Delta State Polytechnic Ozoro after 1pm and walked up to the security post where a number of men and women hanged around. I inquired from them where the NDDC ICT Centre project was located and I was told it was somewhere at the polytechnic’s Campus 2.
The security man advised that I should take a commercial motorcycle rider, popularly known as ‘Okada man’ to convey me to the place as it was a pretty distance from the main gate. I obliged and he called one of the Okada men, who converged in front of the main entrance gate, to take me the location of the ICT Centre.
Before I arrived the Polytechnic, I had contacted a friend of mine, who is a staff of the Polytechnic that I was visiting and he had asked me to seek direction from the security personnel to meet him at the Senior Staff Club. So the Okada man was hired to take me first to the ICT Centre and then to the Senior Staff Club which was nearer to the main gate.
Less than five minutes we were at the ICT Centre location and I alighted from the motor bike, walked around the uncompleted two storey building and sighted the project sign post. With my hand phone, I took some shots of the building and was embarking on the motor bike to take me to my friend, when was I heard someone yelling hey and beckoned.
I asked the Okada man to ride towards the adjacent building housing the Computer Department, where a thuggish hunk, dark young man sat on the pavement. Again, I alighted from the bike and walked up to him. Chukwuma (simply called Chuks for short), I later learnt was a personal aide to the former Rector, Dr. Jacob Oboreh.
Chuks demanded that I introduce myself, which I did, presenting my Identity Card to him. Not satisfied, he ordered me to produce the permission letter NDDC issued to me to carry out the report. I told him I am a journalist assigned by my head office to do an independent report on some NDDC projects across the three senatorial districts in the state.
At this point, he was threatening to handcuff me if I do not produce a permission letter assigning me on the project. He seized my phone, diary, ID Card, other documents with me and quickly put a phone call to someone.
In few minutes, a charcoal black man, probably in his sixties drove a black Toyota car to the arena in the company of someone. He was addressed simply as CSO and I had beamed with hope that being a senior management staff, the rude affront meted out on me by Chuks would be redressed.
But my expectations were dashed when the CSO yelled at me to enter his official car, without listening to my story. He ordered Chuks and another security aide to strip me of my personal effects and impound the Okada man’s bike.
The CSO drove me to his office, cursing as he fumed and threatened to detain me until my employers come to seek for me. He brushed aside my official ID Card and shouted me down for introducing myself as a journalist, accusing me of being a “spy mission” to the polytechnic. He further accused me of being sponsored by politicians to “blackmail and rubbish” a particular politician in the area (name witheld), who he revealed attracted the ICT Centre project to the polytechnic and appointed the contractor.
All explanations I made to dispel his misconceptions fell on deaf ears. He called the Rector and spoke in Isoko vernacular and later the Registrar also in the native language. The last line he stated on phone was: “Sir, I will detain him here until he tells us who sent him to spy on the school and who his sponsors are”.
Shortly, his phone rang and he took the call, after which he said the Registrar asked him to bring me to his office. Again, I thought the Registrar would save me from the ordeal I have suffered in the past two hours. We got to the Registrar’s office only for me to meet Chuks again.
Mr. S. O. Onabire, the Registrar began his deriding interrogations, betraying the mindset he has already bought into the callous accusations that I was on a sponsored political espionage. All I said to disabuse his mind of the unfounded accusations meet a numb end.
The Registrar directed that I should be handed over to the police. Right away, the CSO and his thuggish aides, Chuks and co bundled me out of the Registrar’s office, pulling me by my trouser waist and shoving me into the CSO’s car. We returned to the CSO’s office, where I was compelled under duress to write a statement on my mission to the polytechnic.
Fifteen minutes after, two policemen on mufti entered the CSO’s office and he handed me over to them with phantom accusations that I was on a spy mission and sponsored political espionage.
At the Divisional Police Headquarters, Ozoro, the CSO made frantic attempts to ensure that I was detained over night. He cooked up trump charges against me and called me a criminal and an impostor.
The DPO directed that I should call my employers or the authority who assigned the NDDC projects report to me to call him and identify me, which was done. The police authority also charged me to call any authority in the state to identify me. So I called the police public relations officer (PPRO), DSP Andrew Aniamaka, who put calls across to the DPO and I was released after 8pm. I spent the night in Ozoro and returned to Asaba, my base the next morning.
Written by Victor Sorokwu, Daily Trust correspondent in Delta