Mr. Perez Brisibe, the Ughelli correspondent of Vanguard Newspapers, has alleged that the Commanding Officer of 222 Battalion in Agbarha Otor, Lieutenant Colonel Saka Jimoh, has banished him from doing his professional duties, adding that the officer’s action was a reprisal for his factual reports on the continued blowing up of oil facilities by militants in the Niger Delta region.
In an interview with SaharaReporters, Mr. Brisibe, who is the assistant secretary of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Ughelli chapter, said he decided to disclose the threats by the officer in order to alert the public so that, in the event of any harm to his person, his family and the public would know whom to hold responsible.
“The Commanding Officer of 222 Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Saka Jimoh, today declared me persona non-grata having singled me out not to participate in a meeting between the command and the Ughelli chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, [his] reason being my reportage on the activities of militants in the area. The meeting was held at the battalion’s headquarters, Agbarha-Otor,” said the reporter.
He added: “The purpose of the meeting, which was called by the Commanding Officer, was to build synergy between the command and journalists in the area. One begins to wonder if this is how the command is going to build the synergy. Is it my fault that militants are blowing pipelines? I am only carrying out my duty as a journalist.”
One of the reporters who attended the meeting confided in SaharaReporters that the visibly angry Commanding Officer of 222 Battalion could do anything to harm Mr. Brisibe if no action was taken fast. The source said he had suggested that, on account of the officer’s threats and decision to ban Mr. Brisibe, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Ughelli chapter, should boycott the meeting called by Lieutenant Colonel Saka Jimoh. “I called on the chairman of the Ughelli chapel, Polycarp Orosevwotu, the secretary, Ogbagha Matthias, and other executive members of the chapel to boycott the meeting as they should not attend any meeting when one of their own is being threatened,” said the source.
He added, “The executive did not listen. They attended the meeting with the CO. Some of us later gathered that, after the meeting, the Commanding Officer of 222 Battalion, gave an undisclosed amount of money to the chapel leadership and other members. He asked them to suspend the Vanguard correspondent and to close their eyes to any story associated with militancy in the area.”
The 222 Battalion serves as headquarters for the Operation Safe Delta. The battalion has the task of protecting oil facilities in eight local council areas, including Bomadi, Udu, Isoko North and South, Ughelli North and South local government areas of Delta State.