The State Commandant of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Anambra State Command, Edwin Osuala, has ordered a probe into the alleged assault on an online journalist, Izunna Okafor, by men of the state command.
This was disclosed in a press statement issued on Sunday by the Public Relations Officer of the NSCDC, Okadigbo Edwin, saying the probe was to bring anyone found complicit to book.
Okafor was reportedly assaulted by some civil defence corps when he went to retrieve his mobile phone after he misplaced it in a vehicle that conveyed him and members of the NSCDC officials to a function at Nnewi.
He said, “I was in the same bus with the civil defence officials from Awka to the venue of the Anambra South Rally of the Soludo Ambassadors, which was held at Nnewi on Saturday, while the same bus (provided by the organisers of the event) also conveyed us back to Awka.
“The officials had earlier complained of hunger and frustration on their way back from the rally, but trouble started when I wanted to alight at the UNIZIK junction, but the driver ignored me on the instruction of the civil defence officers, who insisted that everybody must remain in the bus and follow them to the very last bus stop where they themselves would alight.
“It was until I spoke with a loud voice before some other civil defence officials and some attendants at the rally in the same bus then told the driver to stop for me to alight. As I was alighting I could not see my second mobile phone which fell inside the bus when the driver was on a high-speed.
“However, when I attempted to retrieve my mobile phone, the civil defence officers ordered the driver to zoom off without listening to me. I had no other option but to board another commercial transport to go to the place that the civil defence officers said would be the last bus stop.
“When I got there, as I sought an explanation from the particular officer for his action, the situation escalated further and aggravated to chaos as the officer began questioning me on what gave me the boldness to ask him such question as a uniformed and armed man.
“While the civil defence officer began to raise his voice at me, he also corked his gun, while his colleagues, numbering about 11, rushed out and irrationally descended on me, physically assaulting me, kicking and menacingly hitting me with gunheads.
“The other officers also corked their guns and even threatened to shoot me while beating me up; as they were beating me, the civil defence officers were also accusing journalists of being a major part of Nigeria’s problem while they themselves stand and suffer under the sun to protect the country and her citizens.
“It took the intervention of the Managing Director of the Awka Capital Territory Development Authority, Ossy Onuko, to quell the violence. Despite eventually retrieving my phone, the civil defence officers continued threatening me, vowing to track me and further deal with me.”
The journalist said he left with injuries and is currently seeking medical attention as at the time he recounted his ordeal.
Okafor, who said he could identify the officers involved in attacking him, added that he had recently reported the incident to the Public Relations Officer of the Anambra State Command of the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps, Edwin Okadigbo, who promised to look into the matter.
Reacting to the development via the press statement issued by the NSCDC commandant, it said, “Our attention has been drawn to an online publication on Saturday, titled, ‘Civil defence officers attack Anambra journalist, say journalists part of Nigeria’s problem’, alleging unprofessional conduct of some civil defence personnel against one Izunna Okafor, an Anambra-based journalist.
“The state commandant of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Anambra State Command, Edwin Osuala, found the report unacceptable and has ordered the Deputy Commandant in charge of the Investigation and Intelligence Department to immediately commence a full-scale investigation into the matter with a view to bringing anyone found complicit to book.
“Osuala noted that the NSCDC, as a reputable paramilitary agency in a good working relationship with the Nigeria Union of Journalists, would stop at nothing to make sure appropriate disciplinary sanctions are meted against any of the personnel found wanting.
“I have always partnered with members of NUJ closely in showcasing most of our activities and achievements in the fight against insecurity. I would not want this isolated case to severe the good relationship I have with them. I always urge personnel to be cautious and polite in dealing with members of the public in the discharge of their duties.
“If, after investigation, they are guilty of the offence, they will definitely face the music as a deterrent to other personnel. The command under my watch will not tolerate or condone any act unbecoming of an officer.”
While affirming his unwavering stance against unethical conduct on the part of Officers and men, the state commandant further solicited sustained media partnership, cooperation and support of the public in providing timely and relevant information to the Corps in its renewed efforts against security challenges in the state.