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Pro-Labour Party journalist escapes kidnap attempt in Enugu

Unidentified men who claimed to have come from the Enugu State Police Command last Friday tried to seize Mr Ikem Okuhu, a veteran journalist and public relations expert, at a funeral in Umabor, Eha Alumona, Nsukka LGA of Enugu State.

Eyewitnesses have testified that youths present at the funeral confronted the men, five in number, while Okuhu escaped from the venue.

Addressing a press conference in Lagos, this Wednesday, Mr. Okuhu said the men who tried to seize him could not show him their identity cards or a warrant of arrest.

In his address entitled “ATTEMPT TO KIDNAP ME BY MEN THAT CLAIMED THEY WERE FROM THE ENUGU STATE POLICE COMMAND”, the PR guru who has authored at least two books decried the “broad daylight kidnap attempt” on him.

He stated: “We were at Umabor for the burial of the father-in-law of my younger brother, and I had gone out to make a phone call when one of these people walked up to me and started a casual conversation, but soon said he had an order to bring me to Enugu.

“I initially thought he was joking, and asked him who he was and why I should follow a total stranger to Enugu. That was when he said he was a police officer, and that somebody had written a petition against me. My inquiry as regards who wrote the petition and what the issue was about did not yield anything, as he was soon joined by another roughly dressed man who also claimed he was a policeman. When I asked them for identification, they refused and, instead, tried to herd me into their vehicle, an ash-coloured Toyota Sienna minivan.

“I was to later learn from friends who knew them that there were five of them in all at the venue: while two were engaging me, the others milled in the crowd ready to take action, should there be any skirmish that might result in the use of firearms.

“Afraid for my life, I extricated myself from their company… Crowds soon began to gather, as more people demanded that they properly identify themselves, to which they refused. I immediately knew I was in danger and, with the help of my friends, I left the place and went into hiding.”

Okuhu suspected that the powers that be in Enugu State were behind the attempt to seize him. “I felt this way because, on August 3, 2023, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Enugu State on New Media, Reuben Onyishi, was bragging in a WhatsApp group that goes by the name ‘Nsk LGA Political Class’ that I and another man, Aniebolam Nwamu, would soon be arrested and clamped in detention for what he said was ‘cybercrime’. I have a screenshot of the comment in question.”

How could a government appointee such as Reuben Onyishi be sharing intelligence with the police? he wondered. So, “assuming I was a criminal, which I am not and have never been, he knows the people who are on the police ‘wanted list’ and takes the liberty to brag before his friends about who is being arrested and who isn’t?”

Hatchet writer Onyishi is notorious on social media for fabricating falsehood. Often writing under different pseudonyms, he posts fictitious tales about everyone who works for Labour Party or criticises PDP candidates in Enugu State. On May 20, for instance, another veteran journalist and writer, Aniebo Nwamu, drew the attention of law enforcement agents to the activities of Onyishi and the security threats issued against him [Nwamu] by Onyishi and other con artists working in the Enugu “PDP falsehood fabrication factory”. In recent times, Nwamu has received information on a plot to harm him by agents of the state government. Onyishi’s posts on social media — and now a kidnap attempt on Okuhu — confirm the existence of such plot: Onyishi regularly claims that Nwamu and Okuhu are behind the news site, Enugu Monitor, that occasionally exposes the criminal activities of brigands and looters in a resurrected Ebeano camp.

 At the press briefing in Lagos, Okuhu restated his stand against election rigging and his support for Labour Party candidates including Peter Obi and Chijioke Edeoga in his home state.

“In doing this, I have had confrontations with a number of PDP supporters in the media, particularly this same Reuben Onyishi I mentioned earlier, who, through the stories that he regularly publishes on WhatsApp and other online media platforms, has called me all manner of unprintable names and accused me of worse, including saying that I was a homosexual,” he stated. “Since the swearing-in of Peter Mbah as the governor of Enugu State on May 29, 2023, there has been a disconcerting criminalization of free speech and opposition politics. The media have been under severe and dangerous attacks from security agencies working on the orders of the state government. It has got so bad that press men in Enugu live in fear, as they are routinely hunted down and clamped into detention under very flimsy excuses.”

In a recent statement signed by its deputy executive director, Ayode Longe, the Media Rights Agenda (MRA) called on President Bola Tinubu and Inspector-General of Police Olukayode Egbetokun to order an investigation into abuse of power by police authorities in Enugu State at the behest of the Governor’s Office for the purpose of harassing and intimidating journalists. The objective, said MRA, is to prevent them from performing their constitutional functions. “If the situation persists, we will be compelled to activate all constitutional means and international mechanisms available to us to challenge this ongoing illegality which constitutes a clear abuse of office and abuse of power,” the rights group warned.

Okuhu commented: “Given what nearly happened to me, the attempt to arrest me on obviously trumped-up charges, and perhaps other potentially sinister clandestine reasons, it does not appear as if either the state government or the police authorities in the state have heeded this [MRA’s] call.”

Okuhu has alerted the world to the danger posed to his life, urging the media to resist the flagrant abuse of the rights to freedom of expression in Enugu State.


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