Umahi reverses ban on two journalists as labour threatens showdown

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Labour leaders under the aegis of the United Labour Congress are threatening a showdown with the Ebonyi State Government over the ban on the state’s correspondents of Sun and Vanguard newspapers, Chijioke Agwu and Peter Okutu respectively, from covering the activities of the state government.

The ban was placed on both reporters by Governor Dave Umahi in a statewide broadcast on Wednesday.

The broadcast came after the arrest of both correspondents by the police on the orders of the state government.

However, Umahi backed down following public outrage at his high-handed handling of accusations that both correspondents reported inaccurate accounts of some issues.

ULC President, Comrade Joe Ajaero, on Facebook said he was waiting for the Nigerian Union of Journalists to reach out to other trade unions and labour centres in the country for a showdown with the state government.

“The NUJ should for once get across to other trade union organisations and labour centres for one week solidarity action against the Ebonyi State Government. The time to act is now. Me and my organisations are in standby,” he declared.

However, Umahi’s media aide, Francis Nweze, said in a statement on Thursday that the governor never banned the reporters from covering the activities of the state government.

In what was a complete turnaround from the governor’s open threats against the correspondents, in which he said he had “banned them for life,” the media aide said they were free to go about their duties.

Nweze said: “There were false reports from Chijioke Agwu of Daily Sun who reported that Lassa fever is killing Ebonyians in Droves on Tuesday, 14th April 2020, and Peter Okutu who reported that the Nigerian Military killed 20 Ebonyians just last weekend on 21st April 2020.

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“That the above two reports all raised alarm and caused panic in the midst of the fight against COVID-19. No case of confirmed death caused by Lassa fever has been recorded in recent times in Ebonyi state neither was there any killing by the Nigerian Military last weekend in Ebonyi. The reports were all ill-conceived and have no truth in them.”