Call Lai Mohammed to order, Media leaders urge President Muhammadu Buhari
Presidency Replies Critics, Washes Hands off Media Bills
The presidency has stayed away from the National Assembly’s present attempt to change the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) Act and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act, which media stakeholders and other Nigerians have denounced as an attempt to stifle the press.
The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) have called President Muhammadu Buhari to summon the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to order, accusing him of being the mastermind behind the divisive amendment proposals.
Mr. Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, told media yesterday following the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) that while it is a government initiative, only the Minister of Information and Culture, Mohammed, can address it.
“That isn’t strictly a presidential issue because the president has nothing to do with it,” he said. It’s a government matter, and only the minister has the authority to speak about it. Consequently, thank you.”
Mr. Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, is studying the ECOWAS Court’s judgement that Twitter users cannot be arrested or prosecuted following the suspension of the microblogging site’s services in the country, according to the Media Adviser.
The AGF, he claims, will advise the federal government on the next steps to take.
Adesina acknowledged that the ministerial committee tasked with engaging Twitter on its suspension had begun its job.
“That report will be studied by the Attorney-General of the Federation, who will then advise the government on how to proceed.
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“The president’s committee to connect with Twitter is holding a meeting right now, or it will hold a meeting this afternoon (Wednesday) to engage with Twitter,” he explained.
Leaders of the media have urged Buhari to summon the Information Minister.
Meanwhile, the NGE and NUJ have urged the president to summon Mr. Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture.
Mr. Iyobosa Uwugiaren, the NGE’s General-Secretary, said in a statement yesterday that media leaders found it “extremely difficult to agree with the Special Adviser (Media) to the President, Mr. Femi Adesina, that the presidency has no hand in the proposed media amendment bills before the National Assembly.”
He emphasised that if the president isn’t involved with the bill, he should ask Mohammed, who is his employee, to stay out of it as well.
“We insist that the current attempts to criminalise journalists in Nigeria would have awful, massive ramifications for our democracy; because an independent press, which the federal government is attempting to kill, is one of the vital pillars of democracy,” he stated.
“The media is known as the Fourth Branch of Government because it contributes to the government’s power balance. Without a robust and independent press, the entire concept of a democratic system of governance begins to degrade, and democracy begins to crumble within a short amount of time.”
He claimed that the concept of a free press was created with the intent of preserving people’s freedom, and that when that freedom is jeopardised, it is a threat to democracy’s growth.
The NUJ has also encouraged the plan’s proponents to put the plot on hold, particularly given that the presidency has denied any involvement in the odious law.
Mr. Chris Isiguzo, President of the NUJ, addressed in response to the presidency’s denial that they were involved in the conspiracy.
Because it is the same government, Isiguzo believes the presidency should call the minister of communication to order after denying involvement.
“We expect the president to summon his minister and all those behind these odious bills as soon as possible,” he said. Before considering any amendments, they should withdraw the bills and ensure that all key parties are fully consulted.
“Of course, we have a clear viewpoint. You can’t start working on a change that will directly affect us without involving us. It’s the equivalent of shaving a man’s head while he’s away.
“Denial isn’t enough; the president should summon those participating in this anti-people crusade to account.”
He stated that the media is unconcerned about any amendments or regulations, but that stakeholders should be permitted to regulate the business, as is done in other countries.
“Once we’ve decided on the most appropriate template, we’ll restart the process.” But, for the time being, the entire process should be slowed,” Isiguzo remarked.