A Human Rights organisation, Akwa Ibom Mandate Union, has faulted the suspension of Mr. Ephraim Ikpe, publisher of The Waves Newspaper by the Consolidated Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) over using their statement as advertorial from the AKWA IBOM MANDATE UNION group at its back page and a story from that statement flashed on its cover page.

In a statement titled: “ILLEGAL SUSPENSION OF COMRADE EPHRAIM IKPE BY CONSOLIDATED CHAPEL OF NUJ IS HASTY AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL”, jointly signed by the President and Publicity Secretary of Akwa Ibom Mandate Union, Comrade Godwin Tom Fredfish,, and Comrade Aniedi Ossom, respectively, and made available to newsmen, the group described the process of the suspension as “disregards to the provisions of the code of ethics of the union.”

The statement, reads in full:

“We have observed with dismay the series of ripples that have trailed our recent statement which demanded answers to salient questions bordering on the integrity issues earlier carried by some local tabloids in Akwa Ibom State on MR CLETUS UKPONG, Assistant Editor with an online news medium called PREMIUM TIMES concerning his fraudulent financial activities against his late uncle, Prof. I.I Ukpong. Cletus was urged to also respond to allegations of thuggery and braze rascality that led him and his gang to invade a church in Uyo to assault a local preacher, a situation that caused his being beaten to a pulp and chased out by irate worshippers.

Rather than make attempts to salvage his bruised image and address the knotty questions raised in our statement, MR UKPONG resorted to engage the services of the leadership of Consolidated Chapel, the lowest of the administrative structures of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Akwa Ibom State called the Consolidated Chapel, to play the tortoise politics against the person of MR EPHRAIM IKPE, Publisher of The Waves Newspaper, Uyo. This led to the illegal suspension of Mr Ikpe from his local chapel, in grouse disregards to the provisions of the code of ethics of the union

In an attempt to re-state our position and while expecting the State leadership of the NUJ to step into the matter urgently and verify the undercurrent activities that led to the unjust declaration of a suspension on its member and Publisher of The Waves Newspaper, let it be stated here that our findings have revealed as follows:

Mr Ephraim Ikpe, by the statement issued by Consolidated Chapel of NUJ dated 25th July, 2018 and signed by the Chapel Secretary, Udeme Hosea was allegedly suspended on grounds of being “still defiant”, after “all parties” were asked “to toe the path of UNIONISM, ETHICAL COMPLIANCE AND PEACE”.

There is no section of the CODE OF ETHICS FOR NIGERIAN JOURNALISTS that says a Journalist cannot be reported in any news medium either positively or negatively provided the story is true. We dare to ask for the relevant section of the Nigerian constitution, and/or of NUJ statutes that bar Newspapers from carrying advertorials about journalists as sponsored by human rights agencies and independent agencies.

The NUJ Constitution as we have laid hands on, in ARTICLE 7 Section 3(a)[PENALTY] States: “Where a Journalist is found liable by the Committee[The Ethics and Disciplinary Committee of the NUJ, [not a Chapel executive Committee] for professional and or ethical misconduct, the committee shall recommend to NEC[National Executive Council] to reprimand, or suspend such a member from the Union for a period not exceeding twelve(12) months”. Does the action of the Consolidated Chapel of the NUJ against MR EPHRAIM IKPE pass this litmus test? If the Constitution of the NUJ were to permit a chapel of that Union to suspend a member we would have recommended in stronger terms that MR CLETUS UKPONG should as well be suspended for disobeying the said truce purportedly reached by his Consolidated Chapel by further causing to be published such damaging report against the persons of Mr IKPE et al.

We found out that the Chapel met on Wednesday July 25, 2018 about past 4pm and decided that journalists who are members of the Consolidated Chapel should not publish matters that impinge on the integrity of their members anymore. We also learnt that The Waves Newspaper had been out that Wednesday July 25, 2018 [as usual] in the morning with a statement [advertorial] from our group[AKWA IBOM MANDATE UNION] at its back page and a story from that statement flashed on its cover page.

We noticed that the date on the said statement by the Consolidated Chapel purportedly suspending MR IKPE tallies with the date that decision on ceasefire was taken, showing that MR EPHRAIM IKPE’s purported suspension was premeditated. As we speak, MR CLETUS UKPONG had since Friday July 27, 2018 reeled out another silly report via his PREMIUM TIMES online news medium with the headline “Nigerian journalist suspended from Union for publishing fake stories” purportedly written by one Mohammed Lere, tarnishing the image of Mr Ephraim Ikpe, his newspaper, that of Mr Joseph Okon a Special Assistant to Akwa Ibom State Governor who was linked to a publication on another newspaper called The Anchor Express; while Mr Essien Ndueso, a media aide to Governor Udom Emmanuel and Mr Ephraim Inyang, the State Works Commissioner were not spared of the smear campaigns by Mr Cletus Ukpong.

The Chapel leadership’s hastiness in reeling out copies of the statement and circulating same to all electronic, print media houses and sending the soft copy to many social media platforms in just less than twenty four hours of issuing that statement without reference to the Constitution of the NUJ as entrenched in ARTICLE 7, Sections 1, 2, 3(a), (b), (c)(i), (ii) and (iii) (that bother on DISCIPLINE, PROCEDURE and PENALTY) and without recourse to the state leadership of this revered UNION, smacks not only of a clear demonstration of a decision hurriedly taken in bad taste, but of compromise on the part of the leadership of the Chapel.

It is noteworthy that the meeting of the Consolidated Chapel never found time to discuss the pertinent questions raised in the reports on Cletus Ukpong, neither did the chapel query the veracity of the reports in the said meetings. Rather the chapel chose the path of dishonour by playing to the dictates of Mr Ukpong in illegally suspending the Publisher of the Waves newspaper, Mr Ephraim Ikpe.

Based on the findings above, we make bold to call on the State Chairman of the revered UNION as the NUJ to step into the matter of such display of undue use of power, high-handedness, collusion, evil decision, display of bad blood, compromise and unjust purported suspension of a member of the NUJ by the leadership of his chapel who could have been sponsored by MR CLETUS UKPONG to smear the name of MR IKPE by injuring his person via the “suspension”.

We also call on the Chapel to withdraw the illegal statement and disseminate the news of the withdrawal via the same media routes it got it spread to the world, whether it was sponsored by MR CLETUS UKPNG or not. Mr Ephraim Ikpe does not deserve this display of brigandage and gang up, just because he allegedly was not available when his views could have been sought on the matter. Failure to do so, we are going to embark on legal actions against the State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, the Consolidated Chapel of Akwa Ibom NUJ and the Chairman of the Consolidated Chapel.

We call on MR CLETUS UKPONG to desist from using PREMIUM TIMES newspaper to perpetrate illegality and personal vendetta on his supposed colleagues, but address the seven salient questions earlier put across to him by Akwa Ibom Mandate Union.”

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