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Family of slain journalist grieves amid unanswered questions

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There is a thick fog of grief at the family residence of Tordue Salem, a Nigerian journalist who vanished a month ago, and only declared dead on Thursday night.

Elizabeth Kuraun, the deceased journalist’s elder sister, was overwhelmed by grief when PREMIUM TIMES reporter visited Godab Estate at the Life Camp area of Abuja, where Mr Salem lived until his disappearance on October 13, 2021.

As family friends and neighbours thronged the house, grief-stricken Mrs Kuraun expressed disbelief over the tragic fate that has befallen her brother.

Mr Salem, until his death, was the Vanguard newspaper journalist covering the House of Representatives.

“I only got to know about my brother’s killing through media reports last night (Thursday),” Mrs Kuraun said.

“There was neither any formal communication from the Nigerian police nor from Tordue’s employer (Vanguard Newspaper) that my brother has died,” the distraught sister of the deceased journalist told this reporter as her eyes reddened in anger on Friday afternoon in Abuja.

Vanguard Newspaper had, on Thursday, broken the tragic news of Mr Salem’s passing, saying details about his death remained “sketchy.”

But by Friday afternoon, the Nigeria Police Force announced that Mr Salem was allegedly killed by a hit-and-run driver.

Police spokesperson, Frank Mba, while parading the suspect, Itoro Clement, a 29-year-old driver, on Friday, said investigation by the Force Intelligence Bureau, led to his arrest.

Mr Clement admittedly confessed during the media parade that he knocked a pedestrian down arround Mabushi, Abuja about 10 p.m on October 13, the day Mr Salem went missing in Abuja.

He said he never bothered to wait to attend to the victim because he presumed he was an armed robber, since, in his reckoning, the area was known to be a hive of criminal activities.

The police spokesperson explained that Mr Clement was driving a 2004 Toyota Camry with number plate BWR 243 BK.

He said Mr Clement confessed to have hit the deceased journalist around Mabushi area in Abuja but fled for fear of being robbed.

The suspect also claimed to have reported the incident at a police check, where he was advised to report himself at the Wuse Police Station in Abuja, but ignored the advice and went home.

The deceased

Mr Salem hailed from Benue State, North-Central Nigeria.

His remains were found on Thursday, November 11, nearly a month after he was declared missing.

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Sources in Abuja, who pleaded anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on the issue, told this reporter that they received phone calls from the police on Thursday, requesting to know what clothes Mr Salem was wearing on the day he vanished.

“I received a phone call from the police asking me what clothes Tordue (Mr Salem) was wearing on the day he went missing,” a source said.

A family friend, who visited the Wuse General Hospital morgue in Abuja to ascertain the veracity of Mr Salem’s death, said the remains depicted “someone who was physically tortured to death.”

The source, who did not want his name mentioned, disclosed that upon enquiries, morgue attendants “informed us that Mr Salem’s corpse was brought to the Wuse General Hospital on the day without providing details of the said date.”

On the issue of the deceased journalist’s identity, he was registered as an “unknown body” despite Mr Salem bearing his Keystone bank debit card, a Union Bank debit card, an ID Card issued by Vanguard Newspaper, an NUJ ID Card, and a temporary ID Card from the National Assembly Media Corp,” the source explained.

Mr Mba confirmed sources’ claims that there were items found on Mr Salem which disclosed deceased’s identity.

He added that the journalist’s remains were found at about 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, 11 November 2021 at the Wuse General Hospital Morgue in Abuja.

This has fuelled speculations amongst Nigerians that Mr Salem might have been murdered, while authorities blame the gruesome killing on an unconnected incident as a cover-up.

When this reporter visited the Wuse General Hospital, Abuja, on Friday, its Medical Director, Sa’ad Idris, was not available for comments.

The unanswered questions

Journalists, who attended the parade, picked holes in the police spokesperson’s explanation concerning the circumstances that led to Mr Salem’s death.

Channels Television reported that journalists asked why the management of Wuse General Hospital (where Mr Salem’s body was found) did not report the incident for long since documents belonging to the late reporter were on him.

This is despite widespread condemnation that greeted the journalist’s disappearance last Month.

The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Abuja chapter, had led a protest march to the police force headquarters in Abuja, demanding the journalist’s whereabouts.

Similarly, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the National Assembly, where he worked until he went missing, called attention to his plight.

Also, journalists asked if the police were going to include the Wuse hospital management in the prosecution.

The identity of the person who deposited the late journalist’s corpse remains unknown.

Responding, Mr Mba said the police would address issues of negligence on the part of the hospital management,while assuring that the policemen at the Wuse checkpoint on the night of the accident would be held to account after all the facts of the matter have been gathered.

Benue govt kicks

The Benue Sate government has expressed shock over Mr Salem’s death.

Samuel Ortom, the state governor, said “he was pained how the former Vanguard reporter suddenly disappeared but was found dead by unidentified persons in an undisclosed location in Abuja.”

ALSO READ: Missing Vanguard journalist knocked dead by accident – Police

According to a statement issued on Friday by Mr Ortom’s chief press secretary, Nathaniel Ikyur, the “mysterious recovery of the body of the deceased reporter was suspicious and deserves to be thoroughly investigated.”

Mr Ortom appealed to the heads of the police and State Security Service (SSS)

“to unravel the mystery surrounding the gruesome murder of the Benue-born journalist.”

NUJ demands independent inquiry, autopsy

The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) FCT Council has tasked the gederal government to empanel an independent probe into circumstances surrounding Mr Salem’s death.

In a statement, on Friday, Emmanuel Ogbeche and Ochiaka Ugwu, chairman and secretary of Council respectively, said they were disturbed by the death of Mr Salem and the account of the police was not in sync with credible investigation.

“The death of Mr. Tordue Salem opens another dark chapter for journalism and journalists in Nigeria and we are grievously saddened by it,” the statement reads.

“While the NUJ appreciates the effort of the police in finding the corpse of Mr. Salem, as a union we are not persuaded by the account of the police as it poses more questions than answers.

It is in this regard that we urge President Muhammadu Buhari to order for an independent inquiry into the tragic end of Mr. Salem.

“The NUJ also demands for an independent autopsy so as to allay the fears of thousands of journalists and citizens across the country that indeed the late Mr. Tordue was a victim of a hit and run driver.”

According to the union, the very fact that the family of the deceased as well as the leadership of the union were not contacted prior to the public announcement of the finding of his corpse remains suspicious as well as the identity of whoever deposited it at the morgue.

The statement expressed the fear that without concrete action and bringing to book those responsible for the dastardly act, more journalists will be in grave danger and further weaken democratic ethos and the ability to hold government accountable.

“The NUJ is deeply concerned that the space for press freedom is fast shrinking, with the authority and political officeholders using draconian laws as well as new measures to silence critical voices and independent media”.

It cited rising threats to press freedom to include authority and political officeholders to harass journalists by smearing critical coverage as fake news and new laws related to digital communication, which would effectively silence journalists from holding government accountable to the people.

The union called on the international community to focus on Nigeria and help to bring to account all those responsible for media abuse, intimidation, harassment and even murder.

Backstory

Amid growing concerns over the safety of Nigerian journalists, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and Presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, lauded the President Muhammadu Buhari-led regime for providing an “enabling environment for journalism to thrive.”

PREMIUM TIMES reported that the officials spoke at an event marking the 2021 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists in Abuja.

The duo spoke three weeks after Mr Salem was declared missing in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.

Recently, journalists were manhandled and barred from covering proceedings in the ongoing trial of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) by government security operatives.

Last month during the one year anniversary of the nationwide #EndSARS protests against police brutality and human rights violations, armed police personnel teargassed and arrested journalists in Lagos and Abuja.

Some of them were arrested at Lekki Tollgate in Lagos during the memorial procession to mark the one year anniversary of the shooting of peaceful #EndSARS protesters by soldiers at the location in October 2020.

Despite a plethora of instances of clampdowns on journalists, Mr Malami said the Buhari-led government had helped Nigeria exit the ignoble class of countries with the worst records of crimes against journalists.

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BREAKING Identities of Lagos School Pupils Crushed By Truck Revealed

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The Ojodu Local Council Development Association in Lagos State has revealed the identities of some secondary school students who were killed and injured by a truck in the Ojodu area of the state on Tuesday.
The students were going home after closing from school around 2pm when the truck ran over them.

According to the police, two died while about 12 were injured and rushed to the hospital.
In a statement titled “Events of fatal motor/pedestrian accident at Ojodu involving students”, the Executive Chairman of Ojodu Local Council Development Area, Odunmbaku Segun, claimed that two students died while 12 others were injured.
“Unfortunately, as a result of the accident, two students were confirmed dead on the spot. The identity of the deceased revealed below: 1. Adedoyin Adebayo; 2. Akpolebi Israel. Asides from the two deceased, seven females and five males totaling 12 victims also sustained varying degrees of injuries,” he said.
According to Punch, his full statement reads, “Yesterday, December 7, 2021, at about 02:15 pm, a DAF truck with Registration No. APP 438 YA driven by one ‘Bolaji Kabiru’ rammed into some pedestrians at Grammar School Bus Stop along Ogunnusi Road later identified as students of Bab Fafunwa Millennium School, Ojodu Junior Grammar School, Omole Junior High School. 
“Corpses of the dead students have been evacuated with the support of officers of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and were deposited at the Morgue of the Mainland Hospital, Yaba, for autopsy.
“As of now, we can confirm that all the injured students are in stable conditions and are receiving medical attention at the following Hospitals,
• God’s Apple City Hospital, Ojodu Berger
• Royan Hospital, Aina Street Ojodu
• St. Michael Hospital, Ojodu
• Lagos State Emergency Hospital, Toll Gate, Ojota.
“The erring driver has been apprehended and is in police custody. However, the angry students who were later joined by hoodlums set the accidented vehicle ablaze, vandalised the Ojodu Police Station, operational vehicles of the men of Nigeria Police Force, the Vehicle Inspection Service, and some private articulated vehicles along Ogunnusi road.
“My heart is broken for the families and friends of students who lost their lives in this horrible accident. This is a devastating tragedy, my thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the horrible accident.
“My heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families, May God grant them the fortitude to bear the irreplaceable loss.
“While I give assurances that justice will be done, we have also commenced proper examination and analysis of the survivors.
“I implore us all to maintain the peace and remain calm, rather than take to wanton destruction of properties and facilities let us remember the bereaved families in prayer, allow the police to carry out a thorough investigation, and avoid seeking self help.
“I appeal that we respect the family’s privacy. There’s a need for calm at this trying time.”

 

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FEC approves N965.9m for NCoS to purchase 49 vehicles

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1637930430 Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the sum of N965.9 million for the purchase of 49 operational vehicles to enhance the services of the Nigerian Correctional Service.

The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, stated this when he briefed State House correspondents at the end of the Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday in Abuja.

According to him, the vehicles to be sourced locally will complement the ones already in use by the Correctional Service.

He said: “The Nigerian Correctional Service through the Ministry of Interior presented a memo to council and obtained approval to spend the sum of N965, 902, 524.58 to procure 49 operational and Green Maria vehicles.

“These 49 vehicles will complement the 513 operational and Green Maria vehicles already purchased between 2016 and 2020.

“This does not in any way mean that we have met the vehicle needs of the Nigerian Correctional Service.’’

The minister noted that since the advent of the Buhari administration, concerted effort and commitment had been made to ensure that the Correctional Service was provided with operational tools to meet its mandate of keeping the facilities safe.

He added that necessary logistic support meant to move inmates from the facilities to the over 5022 courts scattered all over Nigeria were also being provided by the government.

Commenting on the recent calls for his resignation as a result of the frequent attack on correctional facilities across the country, the minister dismissed the call, saying there was no need for such calls.

He said: “Our facility in Imo was attacked in April, Kabba was in September, Abulungu was in October and Jos was in November; just to capture the attacks. As painful as those attacks were, nobody will really want the end of justice to be so vulnerable.

“The custodial facilities are the final end of criminal justice system because such facilities are the ultimate end of the administration of justice.

“So, morally, the State owes itself the responsibility of safe custody that must not be violated.

“So, on that account alone, we must appreciate the enormity of any successful attack on our custodial facility and I so do.

“But I want us to put these things in the context of our security situation.

“In Jos, our men died, meaning that the best we could put there was there and when your best could not suffice, it means that it is no longer a question of inability to make preparation or failure for preparedness it is just that at that instance we could not just hold the defence as expected,” he said.

According to Aregbesola, the authorities concerned are upping their game, to ensure that such attacks do not happen again.

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“We are upping our game and we will prevent any such opportunistic attack and even make it impossible.

“We are working with all arms of government particularly security to make our custodial facilities impregnable and we will not rest until that is achieved; that is the assurance I want to give Nigerians.

“As to whether it calls for my resignation, I still don’t see any need for that because it is not for lack of preparedness that the attacks were successful,” he stated.

Femi Adesina, special adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, who also spoke on the outcome of the meeting, said the council approved N145 million for the procurement of an office accommodation for the Federal Character Commission in Bayelsa State.

He also announced the approval of N136.2 million by the Council for the procurement of operational vehicles for the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA).

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, also disclosed that the Council ratified the Finance Bill 2021 for 2022 fiscal year.

She stated that already the bill had been transmitted to both Houses of the National Assembly by the president for their approval.

“Today, the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning presented to Council for Council’s ratification the Finance Bill 2021 for the 2022 fiscal year.

“I’m sure you would have all noted that this bill has already been transmitted by the president to the National Assembly and both houses have already started working on the bill.

“So, this draft bill was prepared by the Fiscal Policy Committee and it focused on tax and reviewing some fiscal laws and also amending some, and these laws are about 11 in number,’’ she said.

(NAN)

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Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

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New York judge orders girl, 11, to have COVID vaccine against wises of her scientist dad

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51525973 10290685 Jeannie Figer reopened her 2012 divorce with ex husband Donald t a 47 1639019902244

By Stephen M. Lepore For Dailymail.Com

A judge in upstate New York has ordered an 11-year-old girl to get the Covid-19 vaccine, siding with her mother in a legal dispute with her father. 

The ruling comes in the re-opening of a 2012 divorce between Jeannie Figer and her ex, Donald Figer to ask the judge to let her vaccinate the child.

Donald didn’t want them to rush vaccination as there were not any studies conducted on long-term side effects of the vaccine on kids, court papers say.

The father is a scientist and college professor ‘at one of the area’s premier institutions.’ His Facebook page lists his place of employment as Rochester Institute of Technology. 

Monroe County Supreme Court Judge Richard Dollinger ruled that time is of the essence in getting the 11-year-old vaccinated against the virus.     

Jeannie Figer reopened her 2012 divorce with ex-husband Donald to attempt to get a judge to order their daughter be vaccinated

Donald, a scientist and college professor 'at one of the area's premier institutions,' didn't want them to rush vaccination as there were not any studies conducted on long-term side effects of the vaccine on kids

Donald, a scientist and college professor ‘at one of the area’s premier institutions,’ didn’t want them to rush vaccination as there were not any studies conducted on long-term side effects of the vaccine on kids

The Figers three children and dog. The former couple's 19 and 17-year-old daughters are both already vaccinated

The Figers three children and dog. The former couple’s 19 and 17-year-old daughters are both already vaccinated

‘Waiting — to be ‘sure,’ as the father asks — is simply untenable, when the specter of a killing or incapacitating disease is swirling in the environment surrounding this young girl,’ Dollinger said in his ruling.

‘Scientists may never catch up to this ever-evolving and elusive virus and variants.’

The judge ordered the mother to get her daughter a vaccination appointment as soon as possible.  

Dollinger noted that Monroe County – where the girl lives – has the second-highest rolling seven-day average of new cases per day since November 22. 

He’s worried about the incoming Omicron variant of the virus and an uptick of cases locally. 

Dollinger noted that he was confused as to why ‘an accomplished scientist and professor would oppose a child vaccine authorized by the CDC and universally encouraged by state and local physicians and other health officials.’

Monroe County Supreme Court Judge Richard Dollinger ruled that time is of the essence in getting the 11-year-old vaccinated against the virus

Monroe County Supreme Court Judge Richard Dollinger ruled that time is of the essence in getting the 11-year-old vaccinated against the virus

Figer, according to his Facebook page, serves as a director at Rochester Institute of Technology in Upstate New York

Figer, according to his Facebook page, serves as a director at Rochester Institute of Technology in Upstate New York

Don Figer’s profession was not detailed in the ruling. His Facebook says he serves as a ‘director’ at RIT.  

Jeannie Figer pointed out that both she, Donald, and their 19 and 17-year-old daughters have already been vaccinated and wanted the 11-year-old to join them.

The ruling adds that the girl’s doctor has also recommended the jab.  

Dollinger said that the risks of side effects from the vaccine are lesser than what would happen if she tested positive for virus, including spreading it to others.      

‘This court is unwilling to kick this can down the road,’ Dollinger added. ‘It could be years before any researchers have exacting accounts of either the short or long term consequences of the administration of this vaccine on 11-year-old girls with this child’s physiological makeup.’ 

Lawyers for both parties have yet to respond to requests for comment.

The Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in November unanimously voted 14-0 to recommend the Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid pediatric vaccine dose for five to 11-year-olds.

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