The controversial Enugu Govt’s palliatives to journalists: The true story

The palliatives brought by the State Government officials for the NUJ and RATTAWU on display at the Enugu NUJ Press Center

By Tony Edike/The Advocate

It was a show of shame at the premises of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Enugu state Council on Saturday following the disagreement between members of the union and officials of the state government on the modality for sharing the palliatives donated to members of the union.

The palliatives were rejected following what majority of the Journalists regarded as an interference by the state government in the affairs of the union in the state.

Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi had in the past made attempts to ensure peace among members of NUJ in the state following the suspension of a few members by the national secretariat of the union on account of anti-union activities.

The governor has continued to recognize the two groups in his dealings with Journalists even when the national leadership had advised him against it.

Members of the union believe that the recognition accorded the splinter group comprising only seven members by the governor against the over 200 in the mainstream, is largely responsible for the lingering crisis in the union.

The union members had repeatedly insisted that there is no faction whatsoever in the state chapter as the elected Comrade Rex Arum led executive remains the recognized leadership of the union in the state.

On Saturday, the Governor Ugwuanyi led government brought food items which included bags of rice, tubers of yam and cartons of tin tomatoes, to the NUJ press center as palliatives to Journalists in the state.

The presentation was widely publicized by the governor’s media aides on the social media inviting all Journalists in the state to the event, which they said was part of governments efforts to cushion the effect of the Covid-19 lockdown.

But trouble began when the government representatives led by the state Commissioner for Information, Mr Chidi Aroh announced before the crowd of journalists that gathered on the premises of the NUJ that the items were for the alleged two factions in the union.

According to him, he heard that there are two factions of the union in the state, and that the items should be shared among them, a statement the Acting Vice president of the NUJ, South East zone, Comrade Kenneth Ofoma , swiftly countered, saying the Union has no faction in the state.

Ofoma, who frowned at the Commissioner’s statement, insisted that Enugu state council of the NUJ remains one, adding that he does not understand the issue of factionalization the information Commissioner was talking about.

Ofoma told the government team that “Enugu NUJ remains one family under the leadership of the state chairman, Comrade Rex Arum and under the National body led by Chief Christopher Isiguzo.”

The south East NUJ leader, hinted that the other group whose members parade themselves as a faction were those suspended by the National body over anti-union activities, stressing that any state executive other than that of Comrade Arum was illegal and unknown to the national leadership of the union.

Also speaking on the development, the state NUJ chairman, Comrade Arum, who equally expressed disappointment with the disruption of the event by the suspended members, said that the union would not accept the palliative since the government decided to recognize an illegal group as members.

He noted with dismay the decision of the state government to always listen to an illegal group comprising only seven persons as against over 200 registered journalists in the state.

The NUJ chairman said that government should have handed over the items to the state council as it did to the Radio and Television and Theatre Arts Workers Union (RATTAWU) for onward distribution to its members saying “the other group parading themselves as a faction is illegal because they are not recognized by the National body of the union in Abuja.

Arum said while addressing journalists on the development: “How can you share the items equally between over 200 journalists and seven illegal persons. You can see that they did the right thing for RATTAWU and they collected their own, but the government refused to do same to the NUJ, its quite unfortunate.”

Some journalists who spoke on the development, wondered why the government should encourage the few suspended members to continue to cause trouble in the union.

However, many Journalists who witnessed the shameful development including those who came from Nsukka and other Local Government Areas in the state, felt seriously disappointed as they returned to their base without the palliatives.

The state governnent in a press release after the aborted distribution of the palliatives, said while the RATTAWU received their package, that of the NUJ was “suspended”.

It reads: “The Enugu State Government, in fulfillment of its plan to give palliatives to all journalists operating in the state, on Saturday, distributed food items to the members of the Radio Television Theatre Art Workers Union (RATTAWU) to cushion the effect of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) on them.

“The state government’s package for the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Enugu State chapter, was suspended to enable her members harmonize their list before distribution, in the interest of peace and security.”

Announcing the suspension, the Deputy Governor, Hon. Mrs. Cecilia Ezeilo, who was represented by the Leader of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ikechukwu Ezeugwu, said that “we are taking back the share of the NUJ because the principal objective of government is the welfare and security of the people”.

Presenting the palliatives to RATTAWU, on behalf of the Enugu State Government, the Deputy Governor disclosed that the gesture was in line with Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s administration’s policy of keeping in touch with the people.

Hon. Mrs. Ezeilo, who is also the Chairman of the State Emergency/Palliatives Committee, added that Gov. Ugwuanyi’s administration has always identified with “the gentlemen of the press”, stressing that “we are not only here to distribute palliatives but also to thank you for the wonderful partnership we have enjoyed towards the development of this great state”.

According to her, “this partnership is working and we believe it will continue to work. This is because if you don’t disseminate what the government is doing, the masses will not know what we are doing. This is especially so at this moment we need to enlighten our people on the precautionary measures and protocol for containment of the spread of COVID-19, as directed and advised by the Federal Government, the Enugu State Government, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and the Enugu State Ministry of Health”.

Responding on behalf of members of RATTAWU, the Chairman of the association, Comrade Ndudi Chude, thanked Gov. Ugwuanyi “for this gesture at this auspicious time”.

He also commended the governor and his team for “their dogged fight against this pandemic” and urged them “not to relent on their oars”, pointing out that the food items “will go a very long way to fight another pandemic which is hunger virus”.

Other members of the Emergency/Palliatives Committee present at the event, which held at the NUJ Press Centre, Enugu, include the Chairman, House Committee on Health, Hon. Sam Ngene, his information counterpart, Hon. Jeff Mbah, the Commissioner for Information, Nnanyelugo Chidi Aroh, Special Adviser to the Governor on Agriculture, Engr. Mike Ogbuekwe and the State Director, Code of Conduct Bureau, Mrs. Ifeoma Ijetta.

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