The Nigeria Civil Defence Corps, Akwa Ibom State Command has reacted to the alleged assault on the Nigerian Television Authority journalist, Etimudo Imoh Etimudo.
Read Full Statement:
PRESS RELEASE ON the alleged assault of NTA Uyo worker and journalist, Mr. Etimudo Imoh Etimudo, by officers of the NSCDC, Akwa Ibom State Command, and the PHEDC, on the 17th October 2020 at 25th Anniversary Estate, off Idoro Road, Uyo.
Without any formal complaint, we read with shock, a social media story about one Mr. Etimudo Imoh Etimudo, a journalist with NTA Uyo, being brutalized by men of the NSCDC, Akwa Ibom State Command, over refusal to offer bribe on the 17th October 2020. It was a regrettable story at this time when the word in the public space is about reformation and anti-corruption.
The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps is a reputable establishment that prides itself on its integrity with a motto: “defending the defenceless,” therefore, the story became one that required immediate attention and investigation.
As the State Commandant, I have interviewed the relevant officers and indeed the relevant officials of Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) on the matter. As a matter of fact, the PHED officials wrote to me officially and obliged me some video clips of the event in issue.
I have also had a meeting with the NUJ with Mr. Etimudo in attendance on Monday, the 19th of October 2020 where I listened to Mr. Etimudo’s narration. Reviewing the facts arising from these engagements, it became necessary for accountability to the public, to put the records straight.
1. As part of our mandate on security of Critical National Assets and Infrastructure, NSCDC officers are assigned to guard the electricity assets, installations and operations. This includes protective details of officials of the Electric Power companies in the course of their duty to prevent power distribution tampering, theft and sabotage. PHED is the electricity distribution company charged with electricity distribution in Akwa Ibom and neighbouring States.
2. On the 17th of October 2020 officials of the PHED went on duty to 25th Anniversary Estate, Uyo, where some customers including the said Journalist, Mr. Etimudo Imoh Etimudo, were disconnected and their wires retrieved for various defaults ranging from power theft, access denial, power usage debt etc.
3. Mr. Etimudo Imoh Etimudo, the journalist, was as of that date, owing the sum of N82,099.40 for electric power usage, according to PHED, so he was disconnected by the PHED task force visiting his area. His house together with others have been earmarked for disconnection from their head-office taking any discretion not to disconnect out of the hands of the taskforce on duty. Please note that at this time, Personnel of the NSCDC were not at the scene and did not accompany the team for this assignment;
4. Following the disconnection of Mr. Etimudo’s electricity and wires cut from the pole to prevent illegal reconnection, Mr. Etimudo mobilized residents against the PHED staff on duty, personally blocked their exit from the area with one Highlander jeep with Lagos registration number FST 138 FK and started a fight with the personnel;
5. By Mr. Etimudo’s admission at the meeting, NSCDC personnel were not with the PHED staff at this time of engagement and conflict. Going by his story to the media therefore about request for bribe by PHED staff, we were not privy to it. The innuendo concerning us in this regard is false and irresponsible reportage at this sensitive period;
6. It was at this point of fisticuff and conflict between Mr. Etimudo (leading other mobilized residents) against the PHED personnel (having held them hostage and seized the keys of their operational Hilux vehicle from a beaten driver) that the PHED Hilux driver escaped the scene to make a distress call to the PHED office for security assistance and rescue;
7. The Chief security officer and the Zonal Coordinator of PHED immediately left with our men for the rescue;
8. On arrival, our men met Mr. Etimudo already half-naked from the earlier fisticuff with the PHED officials. Our men intervened in the aggressive atmosphere met at the scene where the Journalist and his friend (both half-naked) were still assaulting the PHED staff held hostage, insisting that they will not leave the area unless their Power is reconnected. This fact was confirmed from a video clip obliged to me by the PHED;
9. Our men prevailed over all concerned, persuaded Mr. Etimudo to move his vehicle so that the team may exit. He was also persuaded to leave the scene into a waiting car so as to calm and disperse the crowd, they were all advised to take their respective grievances up with PHED at their office. There was no issue of assault by our men at all, neither were they even at the scene of conversation before, during or immediately after the disconnection of power. They were never privy to any form of request for money as alleged or at all. The atmosphere that they met was already rowdy.
10. I also did a spot check on the arms of the officers to check if shots were fired as alleged but their ammunition were complete to debunk the story of sporadic shooting by our officers.
11. As of the time that my men departed the scene with the PHED officials, the atmosphere had become calm. The video clip showed the Journalist and there was no blood “gushing” out from any part of his body as he alleged or at all, no wound whatsoever was visible and this corroborates the narration of both my men and the PHED staff on the said journalist. The Journalist apparently lied about being wounded by my men or at all.
12. We must condemn in very serious terms, Mr. Etimudo’s attempt to veil the shirking of his financial responsibility to PHED for power usage in the sum of N82,099.40 and irresponsible behavior in attacking PHED staff on duty through false propaganda. These are sensitive and we shall not accept our hard earned reputation to be dragged into the mud through media bullying by the said Journalist. We are still in liaison with the NUJ on the matter calling their code of ethic to play whilst we explore our other options;
13. At the appropriate time I am willing and able to show the press the video clips availed me on the matter by PHED and their report. You may also wish to interview them.
14. Whilst not holding brief for PHED, we did inquire about the bribery allegation mentioned in the false story and it was made clear that for a customer in debt for as much as N82,099.40 owed by Mr. Etimudo, the taskforce had no discretion to exercise whether or not to disconnect. The disconnection has already been earmarked from the office therefore no amount of bribe will have prevented the disconnection. This affirmation therefore makes the story of a request for bribe by the disconnecting PHED staff on ground, illogical, a falsehood, self-serving and an afterthought. A copy of his bill arears was also obliged to me.
15. The Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Mohammadu Abdullahi Gana, has ensured that our personnel’s welfare are taken care of and he has also emphasized on training and adherence to rules of engagement which is based on civility. It is the way and manner that we deliver our security services to the public that got us this far and our acceptance. We cannot afford to fail the same people paying our salaries with their hard earned money via taxes.
16. We do not condone indiscipline and corruption in this service. I have found none of these alleged vices in this instance. The records must be set straight. May I also use this medium to reiterate the strict adherence to one of the age-long ethics of journalism to strive for balanced news so that records of events will not be twisted regardless of who is involved, a journalist or otherwise.
17. Please if you see any of our officers exceeding our mandate or ethics in civility howsoever, do not hesitate to report to us. We are here to defend the defenceless!
Thank you for your time.
State Commandant Samuel A. Fadeyi, Esq.
Nigeria Security & Civil Defence Corps
AKWA IBOM STATE COMMAND
18, EKPANYA STREET, P.M.B. 1213, UYO, AKWA IBOM STATE
TEL: 08135173733; 09026092014