From Elohor Igbru, Abuja
Emmanuel Ogbeche, had cause to grab a glass of wine, call up a few friends and throw a little party. This is because few days ago, he won a massive reelection as the Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Abuja chapter.
Ogbeche and his “Reloaded” team won by a huge margin, beating his opponent by polling 450 votes to defeat his opponent who garnered mere 59 votes.
But on Tuesday, Ogbeche did call up a few friends, but not to throw a party but to call for solidarity in a travail which some of his colleagues have described as harassment and intimidation by Nigeria’s secret police, the Department of State Services (DSS).
The secret police had invited Ogbeche and his team on Friday, December 3rd 2021 to answer a petition by a certain person named Taiwo Abubakar.
In the said petition, Ogbeche was said to have converted funds from NUJ into a private use. These funds enabled him to live beyond his paygrade, fly private jets and generally oppress others.
The petition also called to question Ogbeche’s academic qualifications, an allegation if proven would have amounted to criminal investigation.
But most significantly, the petition accused him of frequently posting anti-government stories, railing against the administration of President Buhari and generally being a potential troublemaker.
For over four hours, the DSS drilled Ogbeche and his team comprising Vice Chairman, Osaretin Osadebamwen, Secretary, Ochiaka Ugwu, and Treasurer, Aisha Kadala over the allegations in the petition.
But if Ogbeche and his men thought their ordeal was over, they were grossly mistaken and not even their prestigeous positions as members of the fourth estate of the realm would cast an immunity on them.
On December 7th, Ogbeche was again invited by the DSS, spending several hours with them and going over again questions on allegations contained in the petition.
If this was designed to break Ogbeche’s spirit, it remains to be seen as support and encomiums have continued to pour in for the yet-to-be-embattled chairman, in hundreds from his colleagues and government officials.
The NUJ issued a statement calling the DSS to order and asking it to stop further harassment of it’s officials based on a petition written by a faceless person (s) as the petitioner’s name is not known to the FCT chapter of the NUJ.
The statement reads: “We are not unaware of efforts by some faceless individuals masquerading as members to cause disaffection in the NUJ FCT Council.
“It is a shame that the DSS will yield itself to such obnoxious tactics. If the Service was focused on national security, it will not dabble into matter that it should have done due diligence on.
“To begin to ask NUJ FCT Council officials to validate what are outright falsehoods and subjecting them to psychological and physical trauma is unfortunate and regrettable.
“If the Service were that diligent, it should have known that the Chairman of Council, Emmanuel Ogbeche, graduated from the University of Calabar, and did his National Youth Service in Lafia, Nasarawa state. Besides, the possession of the same are not necessary prerequisite in running for office in the NUJ when there are other qualifications in that regard.
“Also, it is a wonder that the DSS has now taken on the functions of anti-corruption agencies over a lease that was sanctioned by the Congress of the Union.
“The idea of trying to cower the Union and its officials from performing their constitutional roles of holding government and its officials accountable as well as weaken citizens’ rights to hold and air their opinions is undemocratic and an infringement on constitutionally guaranteed rights. “
In turning itself into an alleged financial crime investigator, the DSS seems to have arrogated to itself, the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), also it appears the secret police failed to do it’s due diligence on the identity of the petitioner and the motive behind it.
No one knows how many more invitations is awaiting Ogbeche and how this will impact on his ability to deliver on his electoral promises but journalists across the country seem to have spoken with a singular mind to the DSS: enough is enough.