The President, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr Christopher Isiguzo, has called on journalists to engage in more advocacy to prevent passage of the Social Media Bill before the National Assembly.
Isiguzo made the call yesterday in Lagos at an interactive session on “Promoting Media Freedom and Freedom of Expression in Nigeria’’.
It was organised by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in Lagos.
“We need to engage in more advocacy, because from what I have heard, the leadership of NASS is bent on seeing the bill through,” he said.
According to him, this is only possible if Nigerians fail to be vigilant in their opposition to the bill, which seeks to curtail their freedom of speech.
He said that at the recent public hearing on the bill before the Senate, more than 95 per cent of memorandum received rejected the bill.
“We feel that this bill constitutes an unnecessary distraction to our democratic space, and should be thrown out,’’ the NUJ president said.
Isiguzo noted that there were several factors militating against the freedom of the press in Nigeria, apart from obnoxious legislation.
He said these included poor remuneration for journalists, refusal to pay salaries, ownership interest, harsh working environment and self-censorship.
The union president said that as the Fourth Estate of the Realm, the media should continue to hold governments at all levels accountable in the overall interest of Nigeria.
Also, Deputy Director of SERAP, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, said at the Public Hearing on the bill before the Senate that only two groups, out of 67, spoke in favour of the bill.
According to him, this means that majority of Nigerians were against it.
“Despite this, there are still fears that the Social Media Bill might be passed. We should not forget the impact of the bill on our work as media professionals and Nigerians.
“There is also the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Bill, which is still before the National Assembly.
“These legislations can have big impacts on our work, if passed and signed into law, as it will curtail the freedom of expression in Nigeria,” he said.
The Guest Speaker, Mr Richard Akinnola, a veteran journalist, said that Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, gave media the obligation to hold government at all levels accountable.
Akinnola stated that Section 39 of the same Constitution granted the freedom of expression to all Nigerians, noting that this was, however, being hindered by obnoxious laws by government.
According to him, press freedom in Nigeria in the last 15 years, has been on a downward spiral.
He said that journalists and mass media houses had been facing various attacks by both Federal and State Governments, as well as public officials.
Akinnola flayed the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) for the incessant clampdown on television and radio stations in the country.
He said that such attacks were impeding them from carrying out their constitutional responsibilities.
“There is no doubt that many public officials have not imbibed certain democratic norms, which include accepting criticisms.
“Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution is explicit, wherein the media was given a responsibility to hold the government accountable.
“Quite a number of these infractions are committed by the police and the army, which have exhibited lots of intolerance, even under a democratic setting.
“It is also worrisome that many state governors govern their states as fiefdoms, where criticism is seen as an anathema,” Akinnola said.
Gov Emmanuel Shuts Borders, Suspends Ibom Air
Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State has ordered the closure of all borders and roads leading to the state with immediate effect.
The governor also directed that Ibom Air suspends all flight operations with effect from Sunday, March 29.
The Secretary to the State Government, Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem, disclosed this in a statement in Uyo, yesterday.
Emmanuel was quoted as directing that workers in the state should stop work with effect from Monday, March 30 for one week. “Following a critical analysis of the situation relating to COVID-19 situation, I have been directed by His Excellency, Mr Udom Emmanuel to make the following announcements:
“Salaries of state government workers for the month of March will be paid on or before Friday, March 27, 2020.
“Workers are advised to prepare to stop going to work and stay at home for one week with effect from Monday, March 30, 2020. The stay-at-home order will be strongly enforced. March 30, 2020. The stay-at-home order will be strongly enforced.
“All borders and roads leading in and out of the state are closed with immediate effect; except for transportation of food items. Ibom Air will suspend all flight operations from Sunday, March 29, 2020.
“Markets are to remain open for sale of foodstuff and essential items only,” Emmanuel said.
The governor appealed to all Churches in the state to fast t situation. and pray on Sunday, March 29 for God’s intervention in the present situation.
He added that while the one week stay at home order would be on, government would continue to monitor the situation and provide update on the coronavirus in the state.
“While the one week stay-at-home order subsists, the Akwa Ibom State government will continue to monitor and provide regular updates on any development in the COVID-19 situation in our state,” he said.
Partisan Politics: Awuse Wants Civil Servants Isolated
Elder statesman and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State, Chief Sergeant Awuse, has said civil servants should be isolated from partisan politics in order to achieve maximum productivity.
Chief Awuse stated this in his remarks at the public presentation of the book, ‘A Handbook on Discipline of Civil Servants in Nigeria’ written by the State Head of Service (HOS), Rufus Godwins in Port Harcourt, recently.
“He stated, “By 1971/72 when we finished our secondary school, I was in Ministry of Establishment. The Permanent Secretary that they had then, if I may say, was a position that many people wanted to have. They were secure. I will want the writer in subsequent review to consider the importance of career civil servants and not political permanent secretaries.
“The reason is simple. Loyalty is always the ingredient for their appointment. But those days, permanent secretaries were judged by their ability to deliver, their ability to perform and they were more secured. I know you may not include that in your book now for obvious reasons.
“But in future, when you are reviewing, please make sure you mention that area. But remember, in every sector today, the politicians are also very important.
“The important thing is that future civil servants should be isolated from partisan politics. They should be allowed to function and use their brains. They should be allowed to do the job, irrespective of which party is in government,” he stated, noting that it was difficult to get the best out of the civil service with frequent rotation.
“Some of them are afraid to function properly because they know that the words that are used that ‘I am directed’. If you are not directed properly you are on your way out,” the elder statesman noted.
Lagos Assembly Lifts Suspension On Four Lawmakers
The Lagos State House of Assembly, yesterday, reinstated four of its members earlier suspended indefinitely over alleged misconduct and insubordination.
The Speaker, Mr Mudashiru Obasa, made the announcement during the plenary in Lagos.
The House, had on March 9, passed a resolution sacking two of its principal officers and suspending two members indefinitely for alleged misconduct, insubordination and action that could destabilise the House.
The speaker announced the punitive measures following the voice votes by members present during the plenary.
He said the principal officers that were removed included the Chief Whip, Mr Rotimi Abiru and Deputy Majority Leader, Mr Olumuyiwa Jimoh.
The speaker also announced the suspension of Mr Moshood Oshun (Lagos Mainland Constituency II) and Mr Kazeem Raheem Adewale (Ibeji Lekki Constituency II).
The offices of the four lawmakers in the House were subsequently locked by the Speaker on March 10.
Obasa said on Thursday during plenary, that the House decided to lift their suspension following the intervention by the Governor’s Advisory Council and the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“The Governor’s Advisory Council and the National leader of our party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, have intervened in the crisis and directed that the House should reinstate the suspended lawmakers.
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