By Chukwuma NwalihEnugu---------The National secretarait of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, has said that the Enugu State chapter of the organisation is not factionalised.
National President of NUJ, Comrade Chris Isiguzo, made this known in a telephone interview with Southeast Post on Sunday.
He spoke against the backdrop of Saturday's rejection of Coronavirus pandemic lockdown palliatives donated by the Enugu State government to the union in Enugu weekend.
The palliatives including bags of rice, tinned tomatoes, tubers of yam and vegetable oil among other food items were rejected following alleged attempts to create division among the media practioners through the sharing of the items.
The presentation of the palliatives was widely publicized by the governor's media aides on the social media inviting all Journalists in the state to the event, which they said was part of governments efforts to cushion the effect of the Covid-19 lockdown.
The state Commissioner for Information, Chidi Aroh had caused commossion at the NUJ press centre in Enugu when he told the journalists that they were fictionalised, and wanted to share the items among the two alleged factions.
However, Mr Rex Arum who is the NUJ chairman in Enugu, rejected the plan to share the items saying that the national headquarters of the NUJ had earlier written to inform the state government that there was one NUJ in the state headed by him, but the government refused to listen.
"How can you share the items equally between over 200 journalists and seven illegal persons. You can see that they did the right thing for RATTAWU and they collected their own, but the government refused to do same to the NUJ, its quite unfortunate," Arum told both the delegation from the government and the journalists present at the press centre.
Arum stressed that the Mr Petrus Obi's faction of the union comprised seven members who were suspended from the NUJ, and therefore did not constitute a faction of the union.
The NUJ Vice Chairman in the South East, Kenneth Offorma also spoke in the same vein, telling Commissioner Aroh that it was the state government that was creating factions in the union.
However, reacting to the controversy, Comrade Isiguzo said, "Please, for the records, Enugu NUJ has no faction. The only recognised leadershp has Rex Arum as chairman. Please, many thanks."
Sources close to the NUJ said that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi had in the past made attempts to ensure peace among members of NUJ in the state following the suspension of a few members by the national secretariat of the union on account of anti-union activities.
This was even as Ugwuanyi has continued to recognise the two groups in his dealings with journalists even when the national leadership had advised him against such action.
Members of the union believe that the recognition accorded the splinter group comprising only eight members by the governor against the over 200 others in the mainstream, was largely responsible for the lingering crisis in the union.
According to the union concerned members had repeatedly insisted that there is no faction whatsoever in the state chapter as the elected Comrade Rex Arum led executive remains the recognized leadership of the union in the state.
Many of the journalists who witnessed the shameful development including those who came from Nsukka and other local government areas in the state, felt seriously embarrassed and disappointed as they returned to their base without the palliatives.
The state governnent in a press release after the aborted distribution of the palliatives, said while the RATTAWU received their package, that of the NUJ was "suspended."
The statement ead: "The Enugu State Government, in fulfillment of its plan to give palliatives to all journalists operating in the state, on Saturday, distributed food items to the members of the Radio Television Theatre Art Workers Union (RATTAWU) to cushion the effect of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) on them.
"The state government’s package for the Nigerian Union of Journalists NUJ, Enugu State chapter, was suspended to enable her members harmonize their list before distribution, in the interest of peace and security."
Announcing the suspension, the Deputy Governor, Hon. Mrs. Cecilia Ezeilo, who was represented by the Leader of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ikechukwu Ezeugwu, said that “we are taking back the share of the NUJ because the principal objective of government is the welfare and security of the people”.
Presenting the palliatives to RATTAWU, on behalf of the Enugu State Government, the Deputy Governor disclosed that the gesture was in line with Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s administration’s policy of keeping in touch with the people.
Hon. Mrs. Ezeilo, who is also the Chairman of the State Emergency/Palliatives Committee, added that Gov. Ugwuanyi’s administration has always identified with “the gentlemen of the press”, stressing that “we are not only here to distribute palliatives but also to thank you for the wonderful partnership we have enjoyed towards the development of this great state”.
According to her, “this partnership is working and we believe it will continue to work. This is because if you don’t disseminate what the government is doing, the masses will not know what we are doing. This is especially so at this moment we need to enlighten our people on the precautionary measures and protocol for containment of the spread of COVID-19, as directed and advised by the Federal Government, the Enugu State Government, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and the Enugu State Ministry of Health”.