The decision of the National Executive Council(NEC) of the Nigerian Union of Journalism (NUJ) to choose Umuahia as venue for its delegates conference has thorn the hosting Southeast Zone C of the Union apart.
The NEC at its last meeting on August 7 in Abuja approved that the 7th Triennial National Delegate should hold in Umuahia, capital of Abia state on October 4, 2021.
It also set up an Electoral Committee to be headed by a former National President of the Union,Mr Garba Mohammed.
The triennal delegates conference is where new officers of the union at the national and zonal levels are elected.
The present administration headed by Mr Chris Isiguzo as National President is ending soon hence the conference to elect new Executives.
Bụt the decision to hold the conference in Umuahia have received serious objection from a segment of journalists and other stakeholders across the country especially from the Southeast zone which is the hosting zone.
National Vice Chairman of Southeast Zone C of the Union, Petrus Obi in a statement called for a new venue for the conference citing security challenges in the region.
“Drawing from the present security challenges across the Nation, including the South East and Abia State, the home state of the detained IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, I, Comrade Petrus Obi, National Vice President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Zone C, hereby call for a new venue for the forthcoming NUJ Delegates Conference scheduled to hold in Abia state on Monday October 4, 2021”, he wrote.
Mr Obi noted that ‘this is to ensure the safety of the delegates and other members who will be travelling from all over the country to participate in the said conference’.
“A glimpse of the security situation in the zone is the ongoing sit-at-home order which though has been momentarily suspended by the IPOB authorities is being largely complied with by residents and inhabitants anywhere in the zone out of fear for their lives”, he said.
Mr Obi argued that Abia, being the home State of Nnamdi Kanu has been worst hit by reports of insecurity amidst palpable tension that has enveloped the entire zone.
“The IPOB agitators sustained remonstration of the continuous incarceration of their son and leader, Nnamdi Kanu may not have a better opportunity than this being presented by the conference to make a statement” he warned.
He noted that with the conference fixed for the same month of October when the the court hearing on the bail application of the IPOB leader is to hold could be a recipe for disaster.
“I fear for the lives of the over one thousand journalists besides other participants who will be in attendance at the slated Conference venue which of course, I will not attend because my life is so precious to me”.
“It will be in the interest of the revered Union and professional body that the Conference be postponed and or moved to a safer State in the face of security issues in the zone”, Mr Petrus, a veteran Journalist added.
But in a swift reaction, the Secretary of the zone, Ken Ofoma and other officers of the zone debunked allegations of insecurity by Mr Obi.
Mr Ofoma in a statement, which was signed by him and other elected national and state officials in the zone including Chairmen and Secretaries of the five states in the zone, said there was no cause for alarm.
They described the alarm raised by Mr Obi as mischievous, unnecessary and false.
They assured that the South East region of Nigeria is very safe to host the conference.
“The zonal leadership (Zone C) of the Union unanimously disclaim Obi, a lone ranger on a failed mission to cause panic and sow fear in the minds of NUJ members and delegates to the coming Triennial Delegates Conference, just in the name of playing politics”.
The Zonal Leaders while stating that the South East is relatively peaceful and safe noted however noted that no region or part of the country is immune to insecurity.
“The fact that even the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, a place considered as a security fortress could be invaded by bandits, early hours of Tuesday August 23, 2021, kill officers and kidnap some, is a shouting testimony that no place is safe in the country today”
“To further buttress this point, the same early hours of Tuesday, a police Commander of IGP squad was killed alongside other police personnel and civilians in Plateau state by gun men”.
“Also, even the nation’s federal capital territory (Abuja) has increasingly come under security threats in recent time with no day passing without a resident, including security personnel (Police, Immigration, Civil Defence etc) being kidnapped and others being killed”.
“It is also a well known fact that the federal government is doing its best to stem the growing insecurity in the country”, they said.
They wondered why Mr Petrus Obi would want to make a heavy weather out of the security situation in the South East in isolation to other security challenges across the country.
While calling on NUJ members and the general public to ignore and discountenance Petrus Obi’s statement, the zonal officials assured that every measure will be put in place to guarantee the safety of delegates before, during and after the conference.
“Umuahia, Abia State and South East in general is as safe, if not safer than some parts of the country and ready to host the triennial delegates conference’, the concluded.