SERAP, Bishop React As Saraki Rejects ‘Satanic’ Accreditation Guidelines!

The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, has denied the accreditation guidelines released by the management of the National Assembly.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, also repudiated the stringent conditions for the coverage of the 9th National Assembly by reporters, which have been heavily criticised.

Saraki in a statement by his aide in charge of social media, Olu Onemola, on Tuesday said the guidelines negated his belief and commitment to allowing for unhindered operation of the media.

One of our correspondents learnt on Tuesday that Saraki wrote the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, in a bid to unravel the circumstances that led to the emergence of the ‘satanic’ accreditation guidelines.

Further findings by one of our correspondents on Tuesday also revealed that the management of the National Assembly had suspended the implementation of the accreditation guidelines because of the public outcry that followed its release.

No official statement has however been released to that effect.

The National Assembly Clerk was said to have directed the Director of Information, Agada Emmanuel, who signed the guidelines to immediately withdraw it.

A team of National Assembly officials comprising Agada and other senior staff has been constituted to work out acceptable guidelines for the accreditation of reporters.

Onemola in his statement said Saraki’s antecedents as the Chairman of the 8th National Assembly had shown he believed that journalistsshould operate unhindered in order to promote transparency.
The statement read, “The alleged guidelines have not emanated from either the Senate President or the Speaker, and will be promptly investigated.

The public should note that the 8th National Assembly has been committed to the freedom of the press as exemplified by its work to bring governance closer to the people through live streams and live tweets.
This is because the leadership of the 8th National Assembly believes strongly in the freedom of the press and in carrying the Nigerian public along.”

Meanwhile, an anti-corruption advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, on Tuesday condemned the guidelines.

The group in a statement by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oludare, said the guidelines should be withdrawn.

It gave Saraki and Dogara till Friday to ensure the withdrawal of the guidelines. The group said the National Assembly should be ready to face litigation if it failed to withdraw the guidelines.

SERAP said it would “pursue national and international legal actions” against the lawmakers.

It said, “These accreditation guidelines are designed deliberately as barriers to transparency and accountability and amount to a blatant violation of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of information and media freedom.

These are fundamental rights lying at the heart of any system of democratic governance.

Our constitutional democracy rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society.
Allowing journalists to freely cover the activities of the National Assembly would be the most prominent expression of a commitment to ensuring an open National Assembly. At the heart of that commitment is the idea that accountability is in the interest of the lawmakers and the citizenry alike.”

Also, the Archbishop, Province of the Niger and Bishop of Diocese of Nnewi Anglican Church, Godwin Okpala, slammed the lawmakers for trying “to gag the press” with the “stringent” accreditation guidelines.

Okpala, during a press conference in Nnewi to announce the commencement of third session of the 8th Synod of the diocese, called on Nigerians to resist the move by the federal lawmakers to “cow the press.”

The bishop said, “The press should be left out as an independent body. So, if NASS is to gag the press, we will all condemn it as something that is bad.”

On its part, Online Publishers Association of Nigeria on Tuesday asked the management of the National Assembly to withdraw the “draconic guidelines”.

It described the guidelines as “silly, idiotic and crude”.

The call was contained in a statement by OPAN’s President, Austyn Ogannah, and the General Secretary, Daniel Elombah.

The association described the guidelines as part of a sustained plot by the political class “to gag the free press in Nigeria.”

It advised the National Assembly to set what it called reasonable guidelines that would not impede or frustrate journalists and media outfits from covering the legislative arm of government.

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