The Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ Rivers State Council, has issued a 14 days ultimatum to the Rivers State Police Command to tender an unreserved apology within 14 days for the assault against Mr. Kofi Bartels, a Broadcast Journalist and OAP (On Air Personality), with Nigeria Info Radio Station in Port Harcourt, or risk its activities being boycotted by journalists in the State.
A terse and concise press statement issued by the Union on June 6, 2019 and signed by the State Council’s Secretary, Comrade Ike Wigodo reads thus:
6TH JUNE, 2019
NUJ CONDEMNS SARS BRUTALITY
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Rivers State Council, has described the torture of a broadcaster with a Port Harcourt based radio station, the Nigerian Info, Mr. Koffi Bartels, by the Police as barbaric and an act of cowardice.
The NUJ, in a statement signed by its Secretary, Ike Wigodo, on Thursday, condemned in strong term the inhuman treatment meted out to Mr. Bartels, while trying to save the life of a boy in his area on Tuesday.
According to the statement, Mr. Bartels was held and beaten to stupor by the security agents while trying to capture a brutal scene in which a poor boy in his area was being beaten by men of the FSARS.
Narrating his ordeal in the hands of FSARS officials, Mr. Bartels said, ” I was given the beating of my life right on the road. They started by smashing my knees repeatedly with wooden bars. As I type this (complaint), my left knee is swollen and my right knee seriously bruised. I have pains on my head, neck and back”.
The radio broadcaster, in his official complaint to the Union, also said he was handcuffed like a common criminal and taken to the FSARS headquarters where he was given more torture and was even threatened to be wasted if he and his radio station did not desist from criticising the activities of FSARS in Rivers State.
The NUJ regretted that a security agency paid to protect lives and property could turn itself into a monster terrorising innocent citizens in the country.
The NUJ, therefore, demanded an unreserved apology from the Rivers State Police Command within 14 days for the assault against Mr. Bartels or risk its activities boycotted by journalists in the State.
The Council also demanded that all the FSARS officials involved in the brutal act be brought to book, while the agency be made to foot the hospital bill of Mr. Bartels who is currently receiving treatment in an hospital due to injuries he sustained during the attack.
The statement further warned that any further assault on journalists in the State would be vehemently resisted by the NUJ.
“NUJ as a watchdog of the society will not fold its arms and watch any arm of security agencies in the State descend to barbarism and brutalisation of innocent citizens, let alone media practitioners. Enough is enough”, the statement warned.
Secretary, Rivers NUJ
Meanwhile, about six officers of Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) who have been identified as the persons that brutalised and almost killed the journalist, Mr. Kofi Bartels in Port Harcourt, are reportedly expected to appear before the Commissioner of Police (CP), Usman Belel, today, Thursday June 6, for interrogation.
This hint was disclosed by the Rivers state Police Public Relations Office (PPRO), Nnamdi Omoni, who not only confirmed the incident of brutality against Mr. Kofi Bartels, but further added that the CP has ordered an investigation of the matter.
It will be recalled that Mr. Kofi Bartels, an employee of Nigeria Info in Port Harcourt, had survived the brutality of the F-SARS men by divine intervention, after hr had been fiercely set upon by the officers of FSARS, for attempting to rescue a young boy who was been battered ferociously by the officials.
Bartels, who took to his Facebook handle to narrate the gory ordeal at the hands of FSARS, explained that he had been driving through his neighbourhood in Port Harcourt when he saw some F-SARS officers beating up a boy who lived in the area and whose mother sells bean cakes, popularly called akara.
According to Bartels, the hapless boy kept shouting “What have i fone?”repeatedly, while the F-SARS men continued beating him and even tried to force him into their bus and that was when he decided to intervene, because he was not sure if the boy would survive the brutality meted to him.
Bartel’s wrote: “They beat him so much that I doubt if he would survive. I made to plead with them but hesitated and chose instead to take a photograph of the bus and number plate,” adding that immediately the F-SARS men realised that he had taken their photograph, they rushed him and started to beat him mercilessly.
“They started by smashing my knees repeatedly with wooden bars resulting in a swollen knee and severely bruised body. “I was handcuffed like a common criminal and shots were fired into the air to disperse the crowd. I was taken to SARS office in Port Harcourt where I was given another round of beating as they were joined by three other officers in the beating.”
Bartels narrated that some of the F-SARS men even warned him to henceforth watch his back due to the human rights issues he and others have often treated on radio involving SARS and the police generally. “One of the officers said he would have ‘wasted’ me if his team had arrested me. They told me to get ready to be thrown into their cell where I would receive the worst torture, including sexual abuse by male inmates”.
Noting that he had severally used his media platform to speak out on behalf of the voiceless people who have had their rights trampled upon by those who were supposed to be protecting them, Kofi Bartels said that the FSARS officers who brutalized him were literally letting him know how they felt about his advocacy on radio, adding that: “My crime is that I tried to do something about a boy who was being beaten and taking up SARS and police issues on radio.
“I am taking their threat to my life seriously and putting the authorities on notice that if anything happens to me or my family and friends, they should know the suspects,” he concluded on his Facebook timeline.