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Drop Press Regulation Bill, Media Bodies Tell Reps

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The Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO), which comprises the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), has called on the House of Representatives to step down a bill seeking to amend the Nigerian Press Council Act, noting that it is still a subject of litigation the Supreme Court.
Several media organisations and groups also criticised various clauses in the bill as possibly discouraging freedom of speech and press in the country.
The House Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values, which organised the hearing on the bill, however, insisted on going ahead with the exercise.
The committee had organised the hearing on five bills including the ‘Bill for an Act to Amend the Nigerian Press Council Act, CAP N128, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, to Remove Bottlenecks Affecting Its Performance and Make the Council in Tune with Current Realities in Regulating the Press and for Related Matters (HB 330).’
At the opening of the event, Chairman of the committee, Hon Olusegun Odebunmi, apologised to the media bodies, especially NPAN, which had protested, last Wednesday, over exclusion from the exercise.
He noted that an “open invitation” to the event was extended to stakeholders.
“So, I am sorry if there is anybody who thinks we did not invite them. It is not by intention; it was definitely a mistake. Notwithstanding, we have covered everybody through our advert,” he said.
The Editor-in-Chief of Leadership Newspapers, Azubuike Ishiekwene, who represented the NPO, stated that contrary to the claim of an “open invitation” by the committee, the organisation did not receive any notification that would have enabled it to engage the lawmakers and Nigerians robustly on the bill.
Ishiekwene said, “There is a matter and I am sure that as stewards of the people and the law, you are aware that there is a pending matter between the NPO and some parties involved in this legislation.
“That is why a negotiated conversation seems to us to be a way to deal with it because there is a matter pending before the Supreme Court: between the NPAN and some parties involved in this bill that is being amended. And as stewards of the law, I am sure you are constrained just as I am to make any further conversations on this matter because it is a pending matter before the Supreme Court.
“The last time it came up in 2010 – it is a matter that has actually been pending since 1999 – 17 of the 39 clauses contained in the bill that you are considering were ruled unconstitutional by the court at that time. Of course, the Federal Government appealed the ruling. We won the appeal and the matter is currently before the Supreme Court.
“I will rest my case by appealing to the honourable members of this committee; I crave your indulgence to refer to a conversation that was had on a similar matter in 2018 when this matter came up before the Senate and the pendency of this matter before the court was canvassed. And the Senate – the 8th National Assembly – at that time agreed that the prudent thing to do was to step it down. I urge this House to also consider a similar step.”
Odebunmi, however, argued that the House was doing its constitutional job “and I am very sure (that) no court will restrain us from doing the job.”
He noted that while the lawmakers would not stop anybody from going ahead with the judicial process, the lawmakers have the mandate of Nigerians to amend laws.
“It is not about the matter in court, it is an Act of the National Assembly and we deemed it fit to amend it and we are doing that. It does not stop you from what you are doing but this is the position of the National Assembly,” he stated.
Also, the International Press Centre, Media Rights Agenda, Centre for Media Law and Advocacy, and the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, in a joint memorandum titled, ‘For a Truly Independent and Media Freedom Friendly Nigeria Press Council’, called on the National Assembly to expunge all laws intended to criminalise free speech and press.
The memo was signed by the Executive Director, IPC, Lanre Arogundade; Executive Director, MRA, Edetaen Ojo; Executive Director, CMLA, Richard Akinnola; and Executive Director, PTCIJ, Dapo Olorunyomi.
Arogundade, who read from the memo, said, “First, we like to say that the international behaviour towards media regulation is peer regulation, constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the press, and the expunging from statute all laws that criminalises freedom of expression. This is the line the committee should tow like Ghana has done and like South Africa has done; and with regards to throwing off defamation statute from the books, the way Sierra Leone has done.
“A consideration is that the amendment seeks an unabashed focus to restrict freedom of expression while masking the toga of something else. It attempts to do what other laws have done like the Cybercrimes Acts which Sections 24 and 38, which in no fewer than ten instances have been used to clampdown on bloggers or journalists for expressing opinion antagonistic to politically or economically powerful elites.
“Bodies like the Amnesty International has documented 50 cases where the law had targeted, not cybercrime suspects, but bloggers and journalists for writing on what they ‘know to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another.’”
Others are that, “The ethical code that should be operationalised by the council is the Code of Ethics of Journalists in Nigeria as adopted by the Nigerian Press Organisation, comprising the Nigeria Union of Journalists, the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria in Ilorin in 1998, and as may be regularly updated. This has been the practice. A political and non-journalism office like that of the Minister of Information should not be given the power of approval over the code of conduct of journalists.
“The power to determine sanctions relating to hefty fines should be vested in the courts and not the council. The Court of Appeal has clearly established this legal principle in NOSDRA v Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (2018) LPELR-44210 (CA) where it held that ‘the imposition of fines by NOSDRA was contrary to its powers on the basis that penalties or fines are imposed as punishment for an offence or violation of the law and the power as well as competence to establish that an offence has been committed belongs to the courts and not a regulatory agency.’
“The provision relating to revocation of license for alleged publication of fake news should be removed from the Act. Decisions for appropriate sanctions in relation to such offences should be vested in the law courts.”

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Wike Hails Rivers United For Winning 2021/2022 NPFL

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has congratulated the Rivers United Football Club for emerging the winner of the 2021/22 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).
Rivers United was officially confirmed the champions of the 2021/2022 NPFL season following Plateau United 1-2 away loss to Akwa United, last Saturday.
The governor commended the players and coaching staff of the state-owned football club, yesterday, following the memorable victory, which ended their 5-year NPFL title wait.
Wike, who attributed the achievement of Rivers United to the talented team’s determination, said it was most heartening that by virtue of the league win, the club would represent the country at the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League next season.
He further added that Rivers United’s triumph at the 2021/2022 NPFL has brought a wave of joy and happiness for the people of Rivers State and the country at large.
“I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to the coaching staff and particularly the capable players of Rivers United for the valuable efforts they made to emerge the winners of the 2021/2022 NPFL.
“The Government and good people of Rivers State are very proud of the team’s exploits following their dogged performances and resilient display throughout the 2021/2022 season. It is worthy to note that over the years, Rivers United has brought so much joy and happiness to football fans and supporters all over the country. This victory, no doubt, marks a major milestone in Rivers State football’s history.”

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Registration For CBN, AFF eNaira Hackathon Opens, Today

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Registration for the eNaira hackathon, geared towards ideating innovative solutions for the newly launched digital currency, organised by the Africa Fintech Foundry (an innovative hub established to identify and accelerate innovative startups in Africa), in partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), is billed to open on June 27, 2022 and run till July 21, 2022.
A statement issued by the organisers said the main event, which is billed to kick-off from August 4, 2022, is part of efforts to drive financial inclusion, facilitate macroeconomic growth and integrate Nigerian economy to the world leading economies through innovation and cutting edge emerging technologies.
It, therefore, urged interested participants to visit the eNaira Hackathon @www.affcbn.com
With the theme “eNaira – Africa’s Gateway to a Digital Economy,” the hybrid hackathon will bring together teams of talented entrepreneurs, developers, designers, solution developers, problem-solvers, out-of-the-box thinkers, and code magicians from Africa to develop innovative solutions that will drive improved adoption of the eNaira.
Speaking on innovation in Nigeria’s payments system ecosystem, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, recently said: “We cannot deny the fact that the newly introduced CBDC (eNaira) would be necessary in the future to ensure Nigeria is competitive as the world becomes increasingly digital.
“We have seen in the past few years how digital currencies have opened international economies to individuals who wield them and how seamless they have made trading, buying, investing and other economic activities.
“We desire to achieve this and more with the eNaira with the underlying goal to boost Nigeria’s economic outlook.
“Innovators at the hackathon will develop solutions in the areas of international remittance, trans-border payment, blockchain, financial inclusion, and trade (AfCTFA).”
The statement issued by the organisers said, the hackathon will address the strategic points to eliminate possible glitches that could hamper smooth transactions being carried out with the eNaira.

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NECO Begins SSCE,Today

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The National Examination Council (NECO) has debunked the alleged postponement of its 2022 Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) for school-based candidates in the country.
The examination body said the 2022 SSCE would commence on Monday, June 27, and end on August 12, 2022.
NECO made this known in a statement made available to newsmen, last Saturday, by its spokesperson, Azeez Sani, in Minna, Niger State.
The statement read: “The 2022 Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) for school-based candidates conducted by the National Examinations Council (NECO) will commence on Monday, 27th June, 2022.
“State Ministries of Education, Principals, Commandants and all stakeholders are enjoined to disregard any speculation on the alleged postponement of the examination.
“The council has put all necessary measures in place to ensure a seamless conduct of the 2022 Senior School Certificate Examination.
“The 2022 NECO Senior School Certificate Examination will end on Friday, August12, 2022.
“Candidates are to be examined in 76 subjects during the examination.”

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