Bayelsa TV abruptly ends live programme after guests criticised government’s inefficiency

Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State

The management of the TV station is yet to give official reason for the abrupt termination of the broadcast

The management of Bayelsa State Television, on Tuesday, stopped a live programme after the invited guests berated the state government’s handling of the victims of flood disaster.

The one hour long programme at the state owned television station, called Gloryland Television, was terminated after 25 minutes when Tamarakuro Oweifie, the General Manager, directed the programme’s anchor to draw the curtains.

Mr. Oweifie told PREMIUM TIMES he would explain the reasons for the abrupt end of the programme after “he finishes with his investigations.”

Subsequent enquiries were not responded to.

End of discussion

Morris Alagoa, one of the invited guests at the programme said that he was surprised at the sudden decision to end their discussion.

“We have not even attacked the state government, just saying it the way we saw things in our impacted communities and administration of the relief camps,” said Mr. Alagoa, an environmental activist.

Mr. Alagoa and Godwin Ebbeli, another activist, were billed to speak on the flood situation that has ravaged several communities across the Niger Delta region.

While Mr. Alagoa, who had visited several of the communities, spoke on the impact of the flood on the people; Mr. Ebbeli focused on the state government’s handling of the situation, especially the funds released for the victims.

“He (the general manager) thought we will speak like government officials,” Mr. Alagoa said.

In addition to the N500 million provided by the Federal Government to mitigate the disaster, the Bayelsa State Government had approved N1.5 billion from the state’s coffers, according to Mr. Ebbeli.

The state’s House of Assembly had also approved a supplementary budget of N16 billion in the aftermath of the disaster.

Mr. Ebbeli questioned the government’s handling of the funds, adding that it had not reached the real victims of the flood.

That was when the TV station’s management felt they had gone too far.

“First of all they stopped the program as if it was the usual breaks for commercials.

“Then a staff came into the studio and told us, especially my fellow guest, Sir. Godwin Ebbeli that the GM (General Manager) is not comfortable with some statements we were making about the government,” Mr. Alagoa said.

After the commercial break, the programme resumed.

However, a few minutes into the segment, a hand written signal appeared through a glass screen directing the moderator, Joyce Ogiowon, to end the programme.

“When we came out of the studio, some of those watching it from outside expressed surprise too; why the programme ended the way it did,” Mr. Alagoa added.

It was not exactly clear why the programme was ended abruptly but there were indications that Mr. Oweifie acted on orders from above to secure his job.

While he apologized to the guests over the incident, the general manager did not give reasons for his action, which also reportedly angered other members of staff.

“Be rest assured that the programme will take place on a day we all agree,” Mr. Oweifie, a former staff of the Nigeria Television Authority, said in response to PREMIUM TIMES’ enquiry.

Mr. Ebbeli said that the main issues after the water recedes would be how to cater for new housing settlements to entire communities displaced by the flood as well as health problems.

“We are not in the habit of hoarding the truth from the public,” Mr. Ebbeli said after the programme.

“The truth must be told no matter how offensive it is.”

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Ben Ezeamalu is an Assistant Managing Editor and the Head of Lagos Operations/Metro Editor at PREMIUM TIMES. A graduate of Microbiology from the University of Jos, Ben won the 2015 Africa Fact-Check Awards and was a runner-up in the 2014 CNN/Multichoice African Journalists of the Year.

Twitter: @callmebenfigo.

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