Onobrorhie Fred, Benin

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THE Congress of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Edo State Council, in Benin City had rejected report of its Ethics and Disciplinary Committee and as well dissolved the committee.

The standing committee investigated the nine suspended journalists accused of conspiring to steal five million naira approved for empowerment of journalists working in the State apart from the five million approved for journalists in the Governor’s office by the Edo state government.

Congress rejected the report as the committee was observed to have embarked on a voyage of miscarriage going contrary to its term of reference amidst allegations that its members may have compromised. Congress was expected to ratify the report before sending it to the National Secretariat.

But following the rejection, Congress directed  that a new Committee be set up to complete the work already started while the accused nine remain indefinitely suspended and barred from entering the NUJ Press Center, Correspondence chapel office, or attend any NUJ event.

The congress was told that the committee could not get the Edo State government voucher with which the money was paid to authenticate claim of the accused or otherwise even as the accused admitted that they actually collected the money adding that it was initially meant for four of them but that they co-opted 5 others.

Failure of the State Government to release the voucher as evidence even when in fact the chief of staff to  Godwin  Obaseki promised on a visit to the NUJ that he was disappointed at the attitude of the nine and pledged to get them to refund the money, was in bad faith, the Congress held.

Congress frowned at the committee’s failure to note the pleas of one of the nine in an audio tape of a phone recording where he pleaded with a senior colleague for mercy as well as the attitude of CPS Musa, a former National Vice President for coming to the Congress with armed policemen as it amounted to harassing helpless colleagues.

Six of the nine summoned appeared before the committee, with one insulting its chairman for daring to invite him, another sent a text message that he had nothing to say, while they all failed to show how the money was meant for them by their testimonies.

Former governor, Adams Oshiomhole was reported to have approved the money as parting gift to journalists in the State but was released by his successor, Godwin Obaseki under the sub – head of NUJ, and signed for by suspended Council Secretary, Aliu Ozoruva who was allegedly made to deposit his two passport photos as evidence.

The accused and suspended nine gang members are: Aliu Ozoruva – freelance journalist for the Guardian newspaper, Tony Osauzo – Sun newspaper, Adekunbi Ero – Tell magazine, Ehis Ugbaugba – NAN, Friday Otabor – Nations newspaper, Patrick Ochoga – Leadership newspaper, Adibe Emenonyo – Thisday newspaper, Simon Ebegbule – Vangaurd newspaper, and Cajetan – Mmuta – Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Allegedly, the gang members have formed themselves into an umbrella of media practitioners independent of the NUJ as last resort in a battle to survive, after all efforts deplored including the power of their friends in Governor Obaseki government to intimidate the NUJ to cave in have seemingly failed