Abuja based newspaper correspondent, Johnson Odeh attached to the state house has been reportedly arrested on the orders of Benue state government, North Central Nigeria.
Odeh was reportedly arrested alongside his cousin, Johnson Ubeh, on Friday, by officers of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) on the orders of governor Samuel Ortom for criticising him.
Although Johnson was released later while the journalist was held back.
Odeh, an indigene of the state, was reportedly whisked away from his base at Karu, the outskirts of Abuja to Makurdi, the state capital.
On April 7, the journalist authored a statement as president of Igede Media Professionals (AIMPs) blaming Ortom for the escalation of the Bonta-Ukpute conflict in the state.
He also asked government appointees from the Igede ethnic group to resign from the governor’s cabinet.
Odeh in the statement said, “Since last year when the crisis erupted, we have been mounting pressure on Governor Samuel Ortom to resolve the issues at the centre of the dispute; namely, boundary demarcation, with a view to putting an enduring end to the frequent clashes over land dispute by the Bonta and Ukpute communities.”
“Only about a fortnight ago while empathizing with him over an alleged assassination attempt on his life, we reminded the governor to spare a thought for the people of the two communities who had been facing untold hardships due to the lingering communal war.
“Unfortunately, our suggestions have fallen on deaf ears, or at best had attracted name-calling by the governor’s aide who preferred to see us as a faceless group.
“Accordingly, for not caring enough about the lives of our people who have been slaughtered in their hundreds, their houses burnt down and farm produce destroyed, especially following the renewed attacks that have continued unabated in the past six weeks, we are calling on all appointees of Igede extraction in Governor Ortom’s cabinet to pull out with immediate effect.
“We face an existential threat whose enormity has now been brought to the fore by the treatment given to the soldiers on patrol along the Ukpute-Bonta road. This has simply revealed the fire we have been facing as a people over time.”
In the statement, Odeh commended the chief of army staff, Ibrahim Attahiru, for the “uncommon discipline, professionalism” he showed in handling the attack against soldiers militias in the state.
Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), FCT chapter, Emmanuel Ogbeche, said the police arrested Odeh based on a petition by the state government and following his alleged refusal to honour their invitation.
Ogbeche said, “However, assurances have been given of his safety and imminent release this afternoon.”
Several attempts to reach Ortom’s chief press secretary, Terver Akase, were unsuccessful as his phone line was not reachable.
The spokesperson of the police command in Benue, Catherine Anene, said she is not aware of Odeh’s arrest by the command’s officers.