There are many questions begging for answers over the police account of the cause of the death of the of Vanguard reporter, Tordue Salem, whose corpse was found on Thursday, a month after he was declared missing.
The police authorities yesterday said Salem was allegedly killed by ‘hit-and-run’ driver, Clement Itoro.
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The police, however, gave no information on the identity of the person that deposited his remains in the morgue of the General Hospital, Wuse, Abuja where the corpse was found.
There are questions also over why the hospital was silent for long even after finding different means of identification on his body as claimed by the police.
The police Friday paraded Itoro, who claimed he hit the deceased with his car and ran away because he thought he was a thief, on the night he went missing (October 13).
Explaining how Itoro was arrested, the force spokesman, Frank Mba, said the detectives from the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) began an investigation into the disappearance of the late Salem which led them to tracing his phone to Good Friends Garden, Mpape in Abuja.
He said, “When Clement hit Tordue (Salem), the victim’s phone – an iPhone – fell on the car’s windscreen. The suspect, however, disposed off the phone at Good Friends Garden where he usually parked his car, but the phone was picked by some boys working in the garden and some parts of the phone were sold by the boys.”
Mba said the boys also tried using the SIM cards for calls, which made it easy for the police to trace the phone, adding that further investigations led to the eventual arrest of Itoro.
He specifically disclosed that late Salem’s corpse was found at about 11:30am on Thursday at the Wuse General Hospital Morgue in Abuja.
He said during a search on the late Salem’s body, a 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 House of Representatives Press Corps, all bearing his name were found.
But not satisfied with Mba’s explanations, the journalists who attended the parade, asked why the management of Wuse General Hospital (where Salem’s body was found) did not report the incident for long since documents belonging to Late Salem were on him.
Responding to journalists’ questions, Mba said that the police would address issues of negligence on the part of the hospital management and even the policemen at the Wuse Checkpoint on the night of the accident after all the facts of the matter have been gathered.
Deputy Senate President, NUJ, Ortom react
Meanwhile, the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege; the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Governor Gabriel Ortom of Benue State have asked the Police and other security agencies to unravel the mysterious circumstances leading to the death.
The NUJ, in a press statement signed by Emmanuel Ogbeche and Ochiaka Ugwu, chairman and secretary of the FCT Council, respectively, said the account of the police was not in sync with credible investigation.
The union urged the federal government to empanel an independent probe into circumstances surrounding the death, saying it has opened “another dark chapter for journalism and journalists in Nigeria.”
NUJ while appreciating the effort of the police in finding the corpse said it was not persuaded by the account of the police “as it poses more questions than answers.”
“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,” the statement added.
The union said the fact that the family of the deceased as well as the leadership of the NUJ were not contacted prior to the public announcement of the finding of his corpse remained “suspicious” as well as the identity of whoever deposited it at the morgue.
Also speaking, the deputy senate president urged the police and other security agencies to unravel the “mysterious circumstances” surrounding the killing of Salem.
Omo-Agege expressed regret over the unfortunate incident and emphasised the need for conclusive investigations that’ll unmask all those involved in Tordue’s death.
The lawmaker, in a statement by his media aide, Yomi Odunuga, said the parade of Itoro had raised further questions on the circumstances leading to his demise.
He noted that providing the missing puzzle was the only way to bring closure on the matter, adding that anything short of this would add to the list of unresolved murders of journalists carrying out their constitutional duties.
“While we await further briefing from the police on who deposited Tordue’s corpse in the morgue and when it was deposited, the sad development has added to the list of unresolved killings of journalists like Dele Giwa, founding Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch magazine; Godwin Agbroko of ThisDay; Bagauda Kaltho of (The News); Bayo Ohu (The Guardian); Edo Sule Ugbagwu (The Nation) and Abayomi Ogundeji (ThisDay), who were all murdered in the course of discharging their constitutional duties.”
Meanwhile, Senate President Ahmad Lawan and the FCT minister, Malam Muhammad Bello, have expressed deep sorrow over the death of the Salem.
They condoled the family, Vanguard Newspapers and the NUJ, praying that God Almighty grants them comfort.
Ortom expresses shock over death
Governor Ortom while expressing shock over the circumstances surrounding the death of the Vanguard reporter said he was pained how on how the journalist suddenly disappeared but was found dead by unidentified persons in an undisclosed location in Abuja.
Ortom in a statement by his spokesman, Nathaniel Ikyur, said such a mysterious recovery of the body of the reporter was suspicious and deserved to be thoroughly investigated.
The governor appealed to the inspector general of police, the director general of the Department of State Service (DSS) and other sister agencies to do everything possible to unravel the mystery surrounding the gruesome murder of the Benue-born journalist.
He reiterated that the Benue State Government remained committed to the safety of all her citizens both at home and in the diaspora and will not rest on its oars until the perpetrators of this heinous act are brought to book.
Hussein Yahaya, Idowu Isamotu, Abdullateef Salau (Abuja) & Hope Abah Emmanuel (Makurdi)