We mourn Mr Owolabi Precious, the NYSC member compulsorily serving Nigeria and posted to Channels Television Abuja as his Place of Primary Assignment who was brutally murdered because of the recent clash in Abuja between the protesting members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) or Shiite Muslims and the Nigerian Police.

Even as we rue over the death of this Youth Corper, the Deputy Commissioner of Police and other dead Nigerians unfortunately killed on that sad occasion, we must take the opportunity to reflect on the dangerous and harzadous work environment, poor conditions of service and vulnerable nature of our journalists especially in situations like this one that led to the cutting short of the life of the Youth Corper in his prime.

The need for health and safety of journalists while out on field works in risky terrains and other sensitive assignments cannot be overemphasised.

We watch live TV footages of foreign journalists who double as war correspondents as they cover stories firsthand from a war zone or those who cover protests and demonstrations and see that they wear protective armours.

They are never needlessly exposed and unprotected…health and safety first is the mantra.

If this be the case, it is unthinkable that Channels TV authorities compromised the health, safety and now life of this budding journalist by sending him out on such a dangerous and life threatening assignment like covering a violent clash between an incensed mob and Police without the right protective gears.

What happened to helmets, nose or facial masks and bulletproof vests?

We ask, does it cost an arm and a leg to procure and issue these protective gears to correspondents deployed to cover perilous or potentially dangerous assignments?

We think not because life is sacred and life has no duplicate or substitute. Besides, this should be an irreducible minimum given the collateral circumstances and potentially dangerous nature of the assignment.

The worst of it all is that the deceased Corper OWOLABI does not have life insurance policy either from NYSC and or the Channels TV authorities.

Now his parents are left high and dry and all investments and legitimate expectations have gone down the drain.

How many more of our journalists deserve to be mowed down in such negligent and careless but avoidable circumstances as this one at hand and how many more of our journalists deserve to die without life insurance coverage or adequate legal compensation for their estates and dependent relatives if they are hurt, disabled or killed in the line of duty?

Time to act is now…NUJ must act swiftly.

Adieu Corper OWOLABI even as you pass for a metamophor of the unprotected and uninsured and vulnerable Nigerian journalist.

A new normal is possible!

Prof Obiaraeri, N.O.


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