Senate justifies exclusion of reporters from budget defence sessions

Nigerian senate chambers where senators attend plenary
Nigerian senate chambers

In a bid to justify budget defence meetings held behind closed doors, members of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs have said media presence can be a distraction.

The chairman of the committee, Adedayo Adeyeye, told journalists on Thursday that the reason behind-closed-door meetings is not to shroud issues in secrecy but for ”better concentration”.

Lawmakers of both the Senate and the House of Representatives commenced budget defence this week having concluded deliberations on the 2020 Appropriation Bill presented by President Muhammadu Buhari last Tuesday.

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.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Adeyeye said it is better to hold meetings ”where serious, genuine and factual issues will be discussed behind closed doors”.

“On the issue of budget defence, it is not like they want to shroud these things in secrecy but also let’s face it, serious issues of budget defence, looking at figures, adjust here and there, it is necessary to be …. It is not secrecy,” he said.

He added that, ”If I want to write a paper now, I want to do a serious intellectual work, will I be doing it behind the cameras? No. I want us to see this as a serious matter that doesn’t need to bring to the gallery and you know when the press has taken a particular position, the thinking and the attitude of people begin to change because they know the media is there covering.

“If you want to discuss things seriously, genuinely and factually, it is better to do it behind closed doors. (Noise) Let me land. The press can come for the introduction speech, sometimes depending on the nitty-gritty, they need to have their privacy to do it and at the end of the day, call the press to say what they have done.

“It is not secrecy. You want the committees to do everything in your presence, I don’t think it is proper. I am sorry to say. They need to brief you thereafter to say this is what we have done. The budget was prepared without the press being there but it was brought to the public at the end. You yourself, you will not even have time. You will be running helter-skelter but I will encourage them to brief you on whatever has been done,” he said.

A member of the committee, Sandy Onor, agreed with Mr Adeyeye

“There is no secret. Sometimes you need to do your job without distractions. If people like it or not, there is a psychology about the press just being in their face.

“What is critical is that all the issues discussed will be out before the press. You have access to the budget yourselves, you will compare notes. Whatever you need to know, you will ask us and we will brief you,” he said.

Lawmakers of the National Assembly are expected to continue budget defence for the next two weeks as October 29 has been set as the deadline for the conclusion.

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