The Joint Military Task Force Codenamed “Operation Scolombo” comprised of the Nigerian Army, Navy, Airforce, Police and the DSS personnel turned the NUJ press centre, Calabar to battle ground on Monday following a sporadic shooting on the order of the State Security Adviser to scare disenfranchise Journalists choose their preferred candidate during Union election.
The Press centre located at Cross River State Housing Estate in Calabar where members of the Nigeria Union of Journalists gathered to elect a new executive to pilot its affairs for the next three years was engulfed with tension.
Aside from the gunshots, some sections of 3rd Avenue where the Press Centre is located were condoned off by personnel of the DSS and the police who diverted motorists to other routes, while some persons living in the neighbourhood were prevented from gaining free access to their homes from about 8: 30 am to 2 : 30 pm while the election lasted.
Some Journalists who were perceived to be against a candidate loyal to the state were physically manhandled by the soldiers and DSS personnel. The battle-ready security men were allegedly deployed on the orders of the State Security Adviser (SSA) , Mr. Jude Ngaji and the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Christian Ita to deliver one of the contestants for the position of chairman.
The candidates for the chairmanship position were Mr. Victor Udu of the state Ministry of Information, Mr. Lawrence Mpama of Watchman Magazine, and Florence Oluohu,Editor of the Nigerian Chronicle.
While the election lasted sounds of gunshots fired by the combined team of the military, the police and the DSS personnel were heard intermittently, forcing residents of the neighbourhood of the Press Centre to remain indoors. Journalists considered not being in support of a candidate termed “government candidate” were physically manhandled by the soldiers and policeman, allegedly deployed on the orders of a state government appointee.
At the end of the controversial election conducted by Mr. Sam Egbala and Mr. Uwem James , Mr. Victor Odu generally perceived as Ayade’s candidate was declared winner against Mpama and Oluohu who stayed away from the election when it was obvious that their lives were endangered.
Other officers elected in the controversial elections included Mr Oqua Etim (vice Chairman); Mr Oka Ibor (Secretary); Mr Benson Ezugwu (Assistant Secretary); Mrs Archibong Bassey (Treasurer); Mr Edem Edem (Financial Secretary) and Mrs Itam Offor (Internal Auditor).
Though Uwem described the election as being peaceful even at gun point, some of the contestants and stakeholders have already rejected the conduct of the election.
In a press statement issued before the election, which was signed by Renny Etta, Gill Nsa, Florence Oluohu, Lawrence Mpama and six others, they described the election as a sham that contravenes the provisions of the NUJ constitution and the orders of the Industrial Court which directed the conduct of the elections.
“In view of the refusal of the National Secretary of the NUJ to comply with the judgment that nullified the Ndoma Akpet-led State Exco on February 24th 2016, and the brazen breach of the NUJ constitution, we the stakeholders of the union hereby condemn the purported election of Monday, April 4th 2016.
“We also strongly condemn the use of the Army, Air Force, Navy, DSS and Police in cordoning off the NUJ Secretariat for the purpose of conducting the purported election.
“We draw the attention of the state and Federal Government to the use of security operatives in attacking journalists and shooting indiscriminately at the NUJ press centre and therefore call on the authorities to investigate the unwholesome meddlesomeness and brazen display of bravado and seek that the culprits be brought to book,” the statement read.
In the same vein, the college of Veterans of the NUJ have condemned the use of Military to conduct a civil NUJ election whose members are less than three hundred in Cross River State.