Attacks On The Media In October 2004
Council Chairman Orders Thugs To Beat Up And Strip Journalist
On October 25, Mr. Owei Sikpi, of Weekly Star newspapers based in Port
Harcourt, Rivers State was beaten up by thugs allegedly on the
instructions of Mr. Steven Diver, chairman of Southern Ijaw Local
Government Area of Bayelsa State.
Reports have it that the thugs, backed by mobile policemen, introduced
themselves as operatives of the State Security Service (SSS). They
abducted Mr. Sikpi and took him to No. 24, Woji Road in the new GRAł Port
Harcourt where they beat him to a state of stupor. Thereafter, they
stripped him naked and took several photographs of him, naked. They warned
him never to write anything against the chairman threatening to publish
the photographs taken of him naked if he did not stop writing and
publishing such stories about Mr. Diver.
The battery followed a news story written by the journalist and published
by his newspaper on September 30, 2004 alleging that the council boss had
spent some money illegally and recklessly. The report was captioned N700
Million Fraud, Weep Not Southern Ijaws.
The chairman, apparently angered by the publication, reportedly confronted
the journalist in Port Harcourt asking him to retract the publication
within a week or face his wrath. He followed up this action by directing a
legal firm, Egbulonu and Company to take up the matter. The law firm wrote
to the journalist demanding the immediate retraction of the publication,
which the firm said was libelous, and the sum of N50 million as damages.
In the letter dated September 29, 2004, the law firm warned the journalist
of serious consequences of failing to meet the demands of the chairman
within seven days.
In his reaction to the letter through a Port Harcourt-based legal
practitioner, Karibi Botoye, Mr. Sikpi denied committing the alleged libel
and asked the complainant to give details of the crime. The chairman
however failed to give details of the alleged libel until the October 25
Mr. Sikpi has petitioned the Bayelsa State Police Commissioner praying the
police to investigate the action of the chairman and bring the culprits to