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Social Media Bill: NUJ Urges Journalists To Engage In More Advocacy

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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.

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CROSIEC Deploys About 8,000 Personnel For LG Elections

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Ahead of the next Saturday’s rescheduled Local Government elections in Cross River, about 8000 personnel are said to have been deployed across the state to ensure the smooth conduct of the elections.
The Chairman of the Cross River State Independent Electoral Commission, Dr. Mike Ushie, who disclosed this in Calabar while
speaking on preparations by the commission, said they are ready for the elections and one hundred percent compliant with post COVID-19
elections guidelines recently released by the Independent National Electoral Commission as well as the National Centre for Diseases
Control.
He said: “Eight thousand personnel have been mobilised to cover the two thousand, two hundred and twenty-six polling units in the state.
There will be three personnel per pooling unit, five at the accreditation centres, five at the local government and ward coalition centres.
“Accreditation and voting will take place simultaneously and  in line with INEC guidelines, there will be two levels of queuing  and voters
will vote in batches while maintaining social distance.
“We had to make sure that we are on course and lives are protected. Luckily INEC released the procedure for post COVID-19 elections and I
must say that we are in full compliance with it. INEC said we have to provide hand sanitizers, face masks and we have adopted all the
procedures one hundred percent.
“ We have gone beyond INEC  and have gone ahead to procure hand sanitizers, hand washing containers, a good number of face masks  and
we are working seriously to ensure that the right thing is done”, he said.
He added that the commission has given sufficient notice for the elections and confirmed that five political parties will be participating in Saturday’s elections.
From FRIDAY NWAGBARA, Calabar.
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Ambassador Desmond Akawor Inaugurated As New Rivers State PDP Chairman

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The new Rivers State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Executive Council has been inaugurated in Port Harcourt.
Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly,  Mr Ikuinyi Ibani administered the oath of office on the new executives led by Ambassador Desmond Akawor.
In a charge, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike called on the new executives to work towards consolidating the gains of the immediate past Executive led by Bro Felix Obuah.
He commended immediate past Rivers State PDP Chairman,  Bro Felix Obuah for leading to victory .
He said: “We had challenges at the beginning, but that Executive was committed to service. Obuah has shown capacity to deliver.  It will not be easy for the new executives, but the new executives must start to prepare the party for the challenges ahead.
“Work hard to surpass the records of the past executives.  Working together is key, unity is key.”
Speaking further, Governor Wike said that the Rivers State Government will never condone criminality or any attempt to violate the law.
He said: “But for the steps that , the number of cases would have been more. What makes a leader is the ability  to be firm. I value life more than property.
“Since 2015, we have not demolished any property.  But, someone who was SSG superintended over the demolition of several properties.  Now the person is talking about the draconian process.
“My joy is that majority of Rivers people love what we are doing.”
Governor Wike added that from Information from the State Health Commissioner,  the State is likely to have more cases,  mostly oil workers.
National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus congratulated the new Rivers State PDP Executive Committee,  advising them to work for the growth of the party.
Commenting on the fight against coronavirus,  Uche Secondus blasted the Federal Government for refusing to assist State Governments and provide direction for the country.
He said: “The Governors are working without help from the Federal Government.  But for God, the situation would have been worse.
“Governors are running from pillar to post. We must be grateful to Governor Wike for the initiative that he took. What the Governor has done has helped to drastically reduce the number of cases.
“Rivers State is lucky to have Governor Wike at this time of crisis .”
He said those who spread negative propaganda do so out of hatred.
New Rivers State PDP Chairman,  Ambassador Desmond Akawor thanked ththe leadership and members of the party for giving him the opportunity to serve.
He said God has used Governor Wike to rebuild a new Rivers State.  He saluted the resilience of PDP in weathering the storm.
Akawor assured that the new Executive will serve the party diligently.
Immediate Past PDP State Chairman,  Bro Felix Obuah said that the Executive Committee under his leadership led the party to victory  since 2015.
He said that the outgone Executives will continue to work for the party  to ensure future victory.
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Bode George Urges FG To Relax Lagos Lockdown

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A former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George has urged federal government to relax the lockdown it imposed on Lagos State as a result of COVID- 19 pandemic.
George, who made the call in a statement in Lagos, yesterday said the lockdown imposed since March 29 was adversely affecting livelihoods and bringing up security challenges.
He said though government intended to curb the spread of the virus with the lockdown, the directive had left many Nigerians hungry at home without palliatives.
The PDP chieftain noted that there must be a balance between curbing the spread of the virus and protecting livelihoods and asked the government to relax the lockdown while putting safety measures in place.
“Everywhere in Lagos is now locked down. The markets, banking halls, the local grocery shops, the supermarkets, the transportation services are all halted, frozen by the federal government directives since March 29.
“On the surface level, the federal government’s position is to ensure safety, prevent communal spread of the virus and banish this scourge from our shores.
“Lagosians have been staying at home for about a month now. In a largely informal economy where most of our people depend on daily wages, the burden of lack of income is devastating.
“There is a natural growing anger in Lagos as the most vulnerable are ravaged with hunger,” George said.

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