Nasarawa State Police Command on Friday, quizzed The Guardian reporter, Mr. Msugh Ityokura, over a report he had written on Ebola virus disease scare in both Nasarawa and Benue states respectively.
The state Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Criminal Investigation Department, Mr. Tarfa, who sought to know the journalist’s source of information for the report, said the invitation was at the instance of the state government.
Tarfa stated that the state Commissioner of Health, Mr. Emmanuel Akabe, had in his complaint denied speaking with The Guardian over the matter before the report, captioned, “Nasarawa, Benue record first Ebola cases” was published in the newspaper’s weekend edition of August 16, 2014. In the report, it was clearly stated that the commissioner declined to confirm on whether the reported case of an outbreak of a disease with similar symptoms with Ebola in some parts of the state was Ebola or not.
After taking his statement, in which he stood by the report, Ityokura was released in the evening after a written bail application was submitted by the state Secretary of the Correspondents’ Chapel, Mr. Isaac Ukpoju, of the News Agency of Nigeria. He was asked to report back to the state CID on Sunday for further action.
The latest development is seen as another deliberate move by the state government to clamp down on the media, particularly the independent print organisations, centering on reporters in the state. Akabe had not only spoken with The Guardian, but with some reporters of some other national dailies as well, who incidentally also published the report the same day.
The commissioner had, in the telephone conversation of Friday August 15, 2014, said that there was an outbreak of a disease in Taka Lafia, a community in Karshi near Abuja, where he posited that five people were down with stooling, vomiting, fever, body weakness and diarrhea, which are some of the symptoms of Ebola.
The commissioner’s press conference on Monday, August 18, which allayed fear of a possible Ebola outbreak in the state and government efforts to contain any eventuality, was carried in The Guardian of Tuesday, August 19 and other newspapers. This brought into questioning why The Guardian would be singled out for interrogation? Besides, the fact that Ityokura’s invitation came barely a week after the report was published also made the issue with the story doubtful.
It has being observed over time that the state government has not being comfortable with reports in most of the national dailies, even before the state Governor, Tanko Al-Makura’s impeachment saga began.