Thugs allegedly working for the Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Waste Management Agency, Prince Ikim on Monday, 16 September, allegedly assaulted and thereafter stripped a female journalist in the state, Mary Ekere for taking photographs of events at the popular Ibom plaza, Uyo, the state capital.
It was gathered that the journalist who works with ‘The post Newspaper, ‘ a state-based Newspaper was passing along the plaza where she saw some task force operators seizing some goods belonging to traders in the plaza and she decided to take some pictures of the events.
It was further gathered that the thugs irked by the journalist’s action allegedly beat her to stupor, stripped her naked and subsequently dragged her into a waiting vehicle.
According to Miss Ekere, “I was taken to Sanitation Court, off Nkemba Street, unfortunately, the Magistrate was not around and I was remanded in prison custody”
It was learnt that Miss Ekere was brought to the court the following day, Tuesday, by the prison guards in their vehicle where she pleaded not guilty to the charges levelled against her before the court. She was then granted bail of N10,000.
It was also learnt that Prince Ikim allegedly ordered that she should be sent back to prison even after meeting the bail conditions. She was then taken back to prison custody and is currently at the Uyo prisons.
Reacting to the incident, the father to the accused, Hon. Idongesit Ekere said he was shocked by the incident, describing it as unfortunate.
His words, “We waited from morning till afternoon for the Magistrate, who came in the afternoon. When she was arraigned, she pleaded not guilty to those charges and was granted bail. They asked me to pay N10,000, which I did and filled the bail form they gave with my passport.
“The court guy said he was coming to inspect my house, but later came to tell me that Mary will not be released today (Tuesday) again as promised that the Magistrate had gone without signing the bail form. So Mary was taken back to prison custody. I took food to give to her at the prison, but they denied me access to her. They said I should give money that they will give her to buy food, which I did. So she is still in prison.”
Meanwhile Journalists in the state have condemned in entirety the inhuman treatment against their colleague. In a release signed by the NUJ chairman, Comrade Amos Etuk, he expressed shock that Miss Ekere was sent back to prison even when the presiding judge had granted her bail, and the father met the bail terms.
The NUJ body demanded her immediate and unconditional release before noon, today, Wednesday.
Similarly, the chairman of the federated chapel, where the victim belongs to, comrade Inimfon Silas in a press statement condemned the act, saying that such was an indicator that journalists in the state are no longer safe to carry out their lawful duties.
He vowed to use legal means to bring justice to the victim.
Also the female journalists under the aegis of Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, NAWOJ, Akwa Ibom state chapter were seen in a peaceful protest, early hours of today marching in their numbers to the sanitation court to register their grievances.
The Chairman of NAWOJ, Comrade Uduak Ekong in a telephone interview with our correspondent who wondered why Miss Ekere would be forced to spend two nights in the prison custody even after meeting the bail term called for her immediate release as well as an unreserved apology to the accused.
Comrade Ekong also called for total reorientation of the law enforcement agents in the state noting that even if they were authorized by the state government to stop people from trading around the plaza and along the road, they should carry out such duties with every sense of decency and decorum.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Waste Management Agency said he was not aware that Miss Ekere was still remanded in prison custody after meeting the bail terms. He promised to ensure that the accused is released soon.
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