The Clerk of the Senate Committee on Special Duties, Umar Kabir, on Friday chased PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter and other online journalists out of a hearing room at the National Assembly.
He did this when members of the committee were about to meet with delegates from the North-east Development Commission, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs for their budget defence sessions.
Although invitation to cover the session was extended to all journalists under the Senate Press Corp (of which PREMIUM TIMES is part of), Mr Kabir said he did not want “unconventional journalists” at the meeting.
The reporters were seated at the hearing room an hour before the arrival of the committee members.
The lawmakers soon arrived alongside Mr Kabir.
Noticing a few reporters present, he began to ask for Identity Cards of the reporters.
He asked this reporter what media she works with and she responded.
“Which one is Premium Times? Please I don’t want any unconventional media here. We only want conventional media here,” he said.
The reporters – mostly online tried to explain they are members of the Senate Press Corps and were invited for the hearing but the clerk was not impressed.
“Are you conventional media? Please leave. We don’t want online media here. Because online media organisations are not regulated and we don’t want them here because they are not backed by law. No online media is regulated.
“I only want about NTA, AIT and Channels. We do not want ‘anyhow’ journalists here,” he continued as he insisted the reporters leave.
Even ‘conventional’ ones
Minutes later, other reporters from print platforms, Punch, Guardian, Tribune and a few others were asked to leave for the same reasons.
It is commonplace for Nigerian public officials seeking to manipulate the news by selecting only pliable media who can be compromised, to cover events. Often, such journalists are given money and are made to write stories favourable to the organisers.
Committees of both Senate and House of Representatives commenced budget defence with ministries, departments and agencies last week.
Since the commencement of the budget defence, most of the committees have held behind closed doors.
Some of them are committees on Defence, Ecology, Primary Health, Public Accounts, among others.
In a bid to justify this act, members of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs said media presence can be a distraction.
The chairman of the committee, Adedayo Adeyeye, told journalists that the reason behind-closed-door meetings is not to shroud issues in secrecy but for ”better concentration”.
The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, also said it was a misrepresentation “to say that journalists were not allowed to cover the budget defence sessions going on at the National Assembly.”
He said it should be expected that reporters, at some point, might be excused from such meetings “when sensitive issues that bother on national security were being discussed”.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, however, sought to douse tension.
He said “he would find out why” some house committees hold their budget defence sessions behind closed doors.
Lawmakers of the National Assembly are expected to continue budget defence for the next two weeks.
October 29 has been set as the deadline for the conclusion.