Members of the Benue state council of Nigeria Union of Journalists, are living in palpable fear over the death of four of its members with no one knowing who will take the next turn.
First to kick the bucket was Austin Tule of THEWILL, who took ill in less than eight hours before giving up the ghost and buried at his home town in Gwer East local government area of Benue state.
Just two weeks ago, the publisher of The Target International Magazine, Makurdi, Deacon Ortindi Torough Baka, was said to have slumped at his residence at Kwararafa quarters, and was admitted at the federal medical center, Apir, Makurdi and was later confirmed dead.
While members of the union converged at his village in Katsina-Ala local government area for interment, the death of another member, Achai Okewu, publisher of Nationwide Magazine, was also reported that he died of heart related ailment in the nation’s capital.
The body of Okewu, who was in Abuja for final arrangement of his daughter’s wedding ceremony next week is yet to be taken to his home town in Okpokwu local government area of Benue south for burial.
On that fateful Sunday, while at the Aper Aku township stadium to watch the NPFL encounter between the visiting Plateau United and Lobi Stars FC, news broke out that an astute journalist, Terna Doki, a former Line Editor with Daily Trust newspaper, was rushed to a private hospital in Makurdi where he died.
A graduate of English Literature at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Doki also had a post graduate Diploma in Mass Communication from Benue State University, Makurdi and was at one point, chairman of Correspondents Chapel of NUJ, while writing for Daily Independent newspaper in Benue state.
Reacting to the development, NUJ Vice President Zone D, Comrade Kris Atasaka, condoled with the immediate families of the departed colleagues and the Nigeria Union of Journalists Benue State Council and indeed the Media family.
“Though there is appointed for man to be born and death imminent according to biblical injunction, the deaths of journalists in quick succession, especially in Benue is alarming, frightening and one death too many.”
According to him, looking at the nature of the deaths, there’s every need for enhanced welfare packages for journalists in wages/salaries and other innovative interventions given the tedious, strenuous and stressful nature of their job.
“There also has to be deliberate and periodic health checks by both the individual journalist and the plan the NUJ, Media houses should put in place to ensure constant checks on fatigue and health issues to curb degenerative tendencies that eventually lead to death.”
Comrade Atsaka said, “NUJ has the Life Insurance Policy which must be explored by members, though benefits the family upon the death of the Journalist, it nevertheless would ameliorate and cushion the hardship occasioned by the death.”
He called on the Benue State Council of the NUJ to organise a day of prayer and Thanksgiving for intervention for divine reduction of the frequency of deaths of members, saying God is the giver of life and His mercies endureth.