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Vanguard reporter: NUJ demands independent inquiry, autopsy

By Odita Sunday and Msugh Ityokura, Abuja and Joseph Wantu, Markudi
14 November 2021   |   2:56 am
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) FCT Council has tasked the Federal Government to empanel an independent probe into circumstances surrounding the death of Vanguard Newspapers reporter, Tordue Salem.

NUJ

• Group Raises Suspicion Over Killing, Dumping Of Journalist’s Body
• Gbajabiamila, Reps Caucus, Others Mourn

The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) FCT Council has tasked the Federal Government to empanel an independent probe into circumstances surrounding the death of Vanguard Newspapers reporter, Tordue Salem.

Salem went missing on October 13 in Abuja, and was reported dead on November 11 by the newspaper he worked with for several years.
 
In a statement, Friday in Abuja, jointly signed by Comrade Emmanuel Ogbeche and Ochiaka Ugwu, chairman and secretary of council respectively, the union said it was disturbed by Salem’s death and that the account of the police was not in sync with credible investigation.

Similarly, the Tiv socio-cultural organisation worldwide, Mzough-U-Tiv, has raised suspicion and foul play with the manner the journalist was killed and his corpse dumped at a hospital morgue in Abuja.

The President General of the organisation, CP Iorbee Ihagh (rtd), who raised the reservation to newsmen yesterday in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, called on President Buhari to order a thorough investigation to unravel those behind the killing and how the deceased’s corpse ended in the hospital morgue.

Meanwhile, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has expressed sadness over the reporter’s death. He described Salem’s death as painful, saying he was a vibrant and committed journalist.

Gbajabiamila recalled how Salem distinguished himself as one of the finest journalists that covered the activities of the House of Representatives for many years.

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, yesterday in Abuja, the Speaker sent his condolences to the late Salem’s family, Vanguard newspapers, the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the House of Representatives Press Corps.

Also, the Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives said it received with shock and utter devastation, the news of Salem’s death.

“The news of the reported discovery of the remains of the journalist on Thursday, a month after he went missing, is horrifying and yet another sad commentary on worsening insecurity in our country,” the caucus said.

The caucus noted that the report by the Police that the journalist was knocked down by a hit and run driver, around Mabushi area in Abuja was not satisfactory.

“However, as representatives of the people, we demand that the Police must not foreclose investigations, particularly given conflicting official security reports trailing Mr. Salem’s sudden disappearance and death.”

The Conference of Benue Journalists also joined in expressing sadness over the sudden death of one of their colleagues. The NUJ statement read: “The death of Mr. Tordue Salem opens another dark chapter for journalism and journalists in Nigeria, and we are grievously saddened by it.
 
“While the NUJ appreciates efforts of the police in finding Mr. Salem’s corpse, as a union, we are not persuaded by the account of police, as it poses more questions than answers.
 
“It is in this regard that we urge President Muhammadu Buhari to order an independent inquiry into the tragic end of Mr. Tordue.
 
“The NUJ also demands an independent autopsy, so as to allay the fears of thousands of journalists and citizens across the country that indeed, the late Mr. Tordue was a victim of a hit-and-run driver.”

 
According to the union, the fact that the deceased’s family and the union’s leadership were not contacted prior to the public announcement of the finding of his corpse remains suspicious, as well as the identity of whoever deposited it at the morgue.
 
The statement expressed the fear that without concrete action and bringing to book those responsible for the dastardly act, more journalists would be in grave danger and further weaken democratic ethos and the ability to hold government accountable.
 
The NUJ also called for a robust action to ensure protection of journalists and to repeal laws that are being used to prosecute them.
 
The union called on the international community to focus on Nigeria and help to bring to account all those responsible for media abuse, intimidation and harassment, among others.

Chief Ihagh said when he read about the missing journalist, he quickly alerted Buhari to swing into action to ensure he was released alive, but it was handled in a lackadaisical manner, only for him to later that he was killed and his body deposited in the hospital close to a month.

“I suspected foul play in the brutal murder of the Benue-born journalist and wondered how his corpse got to the hospital almost a month after his abduction…

“If the President and Inspector General of Police had acted swiftly, he would have been rescued alive…” he said.