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Damishi Sango favoured for AD chairmanship

LogoDaily Independent Online.         * Thursday, September 4, 2003.

Akwa Ibom legislators must make restitution and apologise


In Akwa Ibom State, the lawmakers are drawing constitutional and public ire by their resolution to expel the local correspondent of The Punch newspaper from the state. The legislators say they resorted to the expulsion option because the reporter, Mr. Haruna Acheneje, “failed to heed an earlier summons from the House to appear before it over what it called ‘false and negative publishing of the activities of the House by the newspaper.” But the newspaper’s management, in defending it’s reporter’s refusal to honour the summons, said it amounts to professional aberration to address complaints on published stories to the writer rather than the editor.

Members of the Assembly thumped down this time-held, universally accepted norm and validated their abnormal move by giving the reporter a 7-day ultimatum to leave Akwa Ibom and practise his trade elsewhere. Their action, despicable as it is, takes us back to the days of military rule, from which we are supposed to have been weaned.   They have not only demonstrated a disturbing streak of intolerance and ignorance about the role of the media in democracy and governance, but also they have breached the constitution they took an oath to protect.

The legislators have subverted the rule of law in that their decision is arbitrary, as long as the due process of the law has not been followed.  They have attempted to strip the reporter of his constitutional right to live and work in any part of the country. They simply do not possess the authority and powers to abrogate these rights.  The journalist is identified in the constitution as the fourth complementary realm along with the other three estates of government: executive, legislative, and judiciary.

Where one now seeks to abrogate the constitutional functions of the other as the Akwa Ibom lawmakers have attempted to do, the nation should be alerted to the ominous signs of grave consequences if prompt steps are not taken to check them. We hold no brief for unprofessional media practice.  But aggrieved members of the public or government personnel offended by such conduct have the courts to appeal to for redress.  There are also such layers of arbitration as the Nigerian Union of Journalists, the Guild of Editors, the Newspapers Proprietors Association, the Broadcasting Commission etc, to turn to.

Having revoked the order, the Assembly still needs to redeem its image through a restitution and formal apology to the reporter and the community of journalists. 




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