18th June, 2011
Two young men who paraded themselves as foreign journalists, have been arrested by the Rivers State Police Command after extorting the sum of N25,000 from a visiting elder statesman.
The two men, who had gained entry into the old Presidential Lounge owned by the Rivers State Government, after posing as foreign journalists from South Africa, interviewed a Nigerian elder statesman, who was in Port Harcourt to receive an Award at the last Convocation ceremony of the University of Port Harcourt.
Luck ran out on them when the Press Officer to the elder statesman, Miss Ann Izi, insisted on knowing and having the correct identities of the journalists, only to discover that one of them, Mr Gbasam Prince, was in possession of three different identity cards, claiming to be staff reporter of The Informant Magazine, The Wish Newspaper, and The Dean Magazine.
The fake journalist, who identified himself as Mr Gbasam Prince, and his partner, known as Mr Tony Nzekwe, according to the Press Officer, could not play back the interview, after collecting the sum of N25,000, as the video camera and tape recorder they used had no audio cassette, video tape and had no battery as well.
In the ensuing argument, the two fake journalists, according to the Press Officer, had insisted that N25,000 would not be enough to pay for their accommodation and flight ticket back to South Africa, and demanded for more money.
The Old GRA Police Station was alerted, and the officers immediately arrived and arrested one of the suspects, who had in his possession a microphone, tape recorder and three separate identity cards belonging to different media houses, while his partner escaped.
In a telephone reaction to the incident, the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Rivers State Council, Mr Opaka Dokubo, thanked the police for the arrest, pointing out that this case would serve as a deterrent to other fake journalists in the state.
Also speaking, the Vice Chairman of the NUJ, Baridorn Sika, who was present in Government House when the matter was reported, described impersonation as a criminal matter that should be treated as such, and further appealed to the public to join NUJ in Rivers State and indeed Nigeria in the task of purging the Nigerian media of fake journalists and other impersonators.
In his reaction, the Acting Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Blessing Wikina cautioned members of the public to be wary of criminal elements masquerading as reporters and or staff of the Rivers Informant magazine.
He said the Rivers Informant magazine is an in-house publication of the Rivers State Government House, that reports the engagements of the State Governor, his Deputy, their wives and other functions of Government House.
Mr Wikina, who doubles as the Editor-in-Chief of the Rivers Informant, said it is a criminal action for someone to describe himself as a reporter doing business for the magazine, saying that â€œthe Rivers Informant is not sold, it is given free of charge, and we do not receive money for stories published in the magazineâ€.
He therefore cautioned members of the public to beware of 419ers, who masquerade as staff of the magazine, saying â€œwhen you see them, please report to the nearest police stationâ€.
Meanwhile, the fake journalist who escaped arrest on Friday was picked up today on the tarmac of the Port Harcourt International Airport, when he came to â€œcoverâ€ the arrival of the First Lady.
ByÂ Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt