In our editorial “Find Tordue fast” (Nov. 1), we implored the police to do what it required to find Henry Tordue Salem, the Vanguard correspondent at the National Assembly who had gone missing since Oct. 13. We said inter alia: “It is not OK for the police to say “an active investigation” is ongoing. It must be seen to be so. Whatever it is that had happened to the journalist, whether alive or dead, should be revealed quickly to put the troubled minds of family members at rest.
“The unexplained disappearance of a journalist in Abuja is disconcerting. Abuja is not just any Nigerian city. It is the very heartthrob of the country where security is supposedly highly visible and tight. How come then that 20 days after Tordue went missing, the police could only report that 6 persons have been quizzed but no arrests made? This strongly suggests the ongoing “active investigation” is clueless. The police should do better than it is doing or not doing. Tordue must be found and found fast.”
To their credit, the police did find Tordue Nov. 11, a month after he went missing on his way home after work. He was not alive but dead. The police have answered the demand “find Tordue fast”. The next is what happened to him and who did what.
On Nov. 12, the police announced the arrest of a taxi cab driver “suspected to be responsible for the death of a Vanguard journalist, Tordue Salem”. The suspect, 29-year-old commercial driver, Itoro Clement, was paraded on Friday in Abuja.
Police public relations officer, Commissioner of Police Frank Mba said Clement was arrested following an investigation carried out by the Force Intelligence Bureau. He said Clement, who was driving a 2004 Model Camry with number plate BWR 243 BK, confessed to having hit Tordue at about 10 pm on 13th October 2021, around Mabushi area in Abuja, drove away after knocking down Tordue. According to MBA, the driver, during interrogation, said, “I thought it was an armed robber that I knocked down until the following day when I saw a smashed phone on my windscreen. The phone was not working again so I threw it away.”
Explaining why he did not wait after the accident, Clement claimed that the area where the incident occurred was “notorious for criminal activities”. “The place I knocked this person down is a criminal place, everybody knows that place”, he said. According to him, after driving for few miles, he came to a police checkpoint and reported to the officers on duty that he had hit someone. He said they told him to go to Wuse police station to report the accident but instead he went to Good Friends Garden where he normally parked his car and went home from there.
On how Clement was arrested, CP Mba said detectives from the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) began an investigation into the disappearance of the late Tordue which led them to trace his phone found at Good Friends Garden, Mpape, in Abuja. “When Clement hit Tordue, the victim’s phone, an iPhone, fell on the car’s windscreen,” he said. “The suspect, however, disposed of the phone at Good Friends Garden where he usually parked his car. But the phone was picked by some boys working in the garden and some parts of the phone were sold by the boys.”
Mba said the boys also tried using the SIM cards for calls, which made it easy for the police to trace the phone. He added that the investigation led to the eventual arrest of Clement. He reported a new twist, which was that Tordue’s corpse was found at about 11:30am on Thursday, Nov. 11 at Wuse General Hospital’s morgue in Abuja. He revealed that during a search on the body, a Keystone bank debit card, a Union Bank debit card, an ID Card issued by Vanguard newspaper, an NUJ ID card and a temporary ID card from the National Assembly Media Corp, all bearing the late journalist’s name were found.
When journalists asked for an explanation of the hospital’s connection, Mba was evasive. They sought to know why the hospital’s management did not report immediately that they had received a Tordue corpse, he replied that “the police will address the issues of negligence on the part of the hospital management and even the policemen at the Wuse checkpoint on the night of the accident after all the facts of the matter have been gathered”.
At least, the world now knows what happened to Tordue, the daring, hard hitting investigative reporter whose work had stirred many a hornet’s nest. Was his death a mere hit-and-run case or cold handed murder ordered by some influential persons. We hope these queries will be answered “after all the facts of the matter have been gathered” as Mba said. It is not yet end of story. No.