An online newspaper has published telephone contacts of all the state and federal legislators, including senators, from Cross River State, South-South Nigeria, with advice to their constituents to call and request for support to cushion the effect of the lockdown.
Cross River, like most other states in Nigeria, has been on lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus, although the state has no confirmed case of the virus.
Paradise News said it published the legislators’ phone contacts because of public interest.
“Most people in Cross River are not government workers, some depend on menial work (to survive). This lockdown has really affected them,” the editor of Paradise News, Frankie Ifop, told PREMIUM TIMES, Monday.
“The nearest people to this class of people are their representatives. So far, we have not heard that these lawmakers have gone to their constituencies to show love or concern for the people.”
Mr Ifop said the lawmakers’ response to the people’s plight during the fight against COVID-19 would certainly become a campaign issue in the next election in the state.
The legislators’ phone contacts, he said, were already available on the internet, in such places like the National Assembly’s website.
People who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on this commended the newspaper but said the legislators are, however, not likely to pick calls from unknown numbers.
“A lot of them will not pick their call, and that is a barrier to the very good thing the Paradise News has done,” a Calabar-based journalist, Anthony Bassey said. “If you are representing me I should be able to access you, especially at a time like this.”
A lawyer in Cross River state, James Ibor, who applauded the newspaper publication, said a lawmaker’s phone contact as a matter of law and morality ought to be of public knowledge. “A public officer has no private life, so cannot be talking about a breach of privacy,” he said.
PREMIUM TIMES called a few of the over 30 telephone numbers published by the Paradise News, only two of the lawmakers picked the call.
The lawmaker representing Odukpani State Constituency, Francis Asuquo, said he did not have a problem with the publication, since “almost all my constituents have my phone number”.
Mr Asuquo said the palliative measures taken by the Ben Ayade administration was done on behalf of “government as a whole” and that the House of Assembly has made its own contribution to it.
The other lawmaker, Francis Ovat, who represents Obubra 2 State Constituency, said he was not in the “mood to talk” when PREMIUM TIMES asked him how his constituency was faring with the lockdown in Cross River state.
Other lawmakers did not respond to the phone calls.
Cross River has about 3 million population. Its people, especially in the northern part of the state, are mainly into farming. The state government is the biggest employer of labour in the state.
“The living standard (in Cross River state) is very low, very poor,” said the journalist, Mr Bassey. “A lot of civil servants are complaining, the economy is very harsh.”
The journalist said retired government workers were yet to get their gratuities and also a lot of the civil servants who have been promoted were yet to receive a salary upgrade.
“We don’t have many companies. We don’t have factories. The ones (factories) we have heard of, we are yet to see their products. Tourism is no longer what it used to be in Cross River,” he said.
Mr Bassey said the state and the federal lawmakers were not doing enough for their constituents. The reason, he said, is probably because they were “foist” on the people during elections.
The lawyer, Mr Ibor, said the lawmakers are not close to their constituents, otherwise, they would have promoted and protected the interest of street children in their areas, “who don’t have homes and doors to lock during this lockdown”.
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