Akwa Ibom State Government House journalists yesterday berated a Department of State Services (DSS) official for threatening to shoot members of the Correspondents’ Chapel who went to keep an appointment with the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the Governor, Mr. Ekerete Udo.
A statement signed by the Chairman and Secretary of the Correspondents’ Chapel, Iniobong Ekponta and Anthony Bassey, respectively, said members of the executive of the chapel had gone to see the CPS only to be ordered back by the said DSS official with an order that, “if you don’t go back, I will shoot you.”
The statement said: “The DSS officer, who claimed to have earlier worked with former governor, Godswill Akpabio, had physically assaulted the reporters, including the former Chairman of the Chapel, Inemesit Akpan-Nsoh of The Guardian; Emeka Samuel of National Pilot and others.
“When we inquired to know why we should not be allowed in, the overzealous officer threatened to open fire on the reporters if we refuse to heed his instruction to reverse our vehicle out of the Government House.
“The tall DSS man, who wore black trousers and white shirt with dark glasses to match without a name tag, became more infuriated when he discovered we were journalists, saying ‘I will shoot all of you right now if you continue to stand here. Call anyone you want to call; I have worked with former Governor Godswill Akpabio before in this state.’
“All entreaties by some mobile policemen guarding the gate proved abortive as the DSS official continued to harass these reporters accusing them of ‘always coming to beg for money.’
“You said you are press; is press somebody’s name? Don’t we know it is money you always come to beg here?”
However, when contacted, the governor’s CPS, who scheduled the meeting with the correspondents, condemned the action, saying: “Just wait, I will speak with him, only where I am now is far from the gate.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman of Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Mr. Clifford Thomas, while reacting to the development, noted that such was a threat to the freedom of information.
“The CPS is the major source of information from the governor and the government. So, it is very wrong for DSS official to act in a manner that is not consistent with the right and privileges the constitution accords journalists in the course of doing their work.
“We condemn such action in a very strong terms and the DSS leader in Nigeria should call his men to order. Hounding of defenseless journalists should be stopped forthwith because not long ago, journalists were manhandled and their work tools destroyed by soldiers on Operation Python Dance II in Umuahia, Abia State,” the CLO chief said.
He, therefore, called on the Directorate to carry out training and retraining of its men so as to re-orientate them on military/civilian relationship, noting that similar allegation of torture and high-handedness levelled against SARS have forced the public to call for the ban of such police structure.