The Presidency has reduced the number of reporters allowed to enter the presidential villa for media coverage of any event from over 100 to about 13
This is to take effect from Wednesday, March 25.
This was reportedly contained in an internal memo but also confirmed by the presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu.
The move was taken in compliance with the restriction of gatherings in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to a maximum of 50 persons and to maintain physical distancing, officials said.
This is in the wake of growing recorded cases of COVID-19 pandemic in the country. The country has recorded 46 cases so far.
State House correspondents will now include the chairman of the State House press corps, reporters of NTA, FRCN, VON, NAN — all of which are state-owned media, save the former who reports for Deutsche Welle, a German-based newspaper.
Others are reporters from private-owned The Sun, Channels TV, and TVC.
Photographers from the quintet of Thisday, Leadership, Daily Trust, Guardian, Vanguard Newspapers are the remaining correspondents permitted to enter the villa.
The excluded journalists were advised to liaise with their colleagues on how to get news from the State House.
Coming at a time presidential henchman Abba Kyari was said to have contracted the much-dreaded COVID-19 disease, and the manner officials around the president managed the report, some have taken exception to this move.
They believe the decision would taint the transparency needed for the reportage of the COVID-19 disease currently ravaging the land.
Some others have also questioned the move, saying it is a move to restrict access to the State House by critical media, especially because media houses which recently had a faceoff with the office of the president were left out on the list.
On the other hand, some believe the move is for the safety of the State House officials and journalists themselves as tough times requires drastic measures.
Presidential spokesperson, Mr Shehu, said the move was borne out of the concern by the presidency to maintain high hygiene.
Asked what the criteria for selection was, Mr Shehu said, “it was to ensure there is broadcast TV, radio and international media.”
On transparency, he said the initial plan was to cut the number to three and that all the units in the villa had been shut.
“But people said, no, if private media are not included, people would complain,” he explained.
“It is expected that somebody would feel annihilated. They know how to share among themselves. Let them sort themselves out. That’s the point I’m making,” he added.