Fred Itua, Abuja
The management of the National Assembly has made a U-turn on the controversial media guidelines, amidst public outcry and outrage.
This came as Senate President, Bukola Saraki, disowned the contentious media accreditation guidelines rolled out on Monday.
Saraki who said he was never part of the decision that led to the new guidelines has ordered a probe into it.
Some of the conditions listed in the guidelines include evidence of incorporation of the media organisation, two-year tax certificate, proof of membership of the NUJ with registration number and the code of certification from the National Library of Nigeria.
The guidelines released on Monday, and signed by Agada Emmanuel, Director of Information of the National Assembly, is billed to take effect from June 11.
But it has drawn wide condemnation from Nigerians who see it as a way to gag the press.
Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani Omolori, who summoned an emergency meeting yesterday morning, where senior management staff, leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives press corps, were present was quoted to have pleaded for understanding from journalists as he claimed he did not sanction the memo.
He assured that the moves would be suspended indefinitely.
Meanwhile, the management has asked leadership of the Senate and the House of Representatives press corps to submit a new guideline that will be used in the proposed re-accreditation of journalists covering the National Assembly.
Saraki who reacted through Olu Onemola, his Special Assistant on New Media, disassociated himself and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara from the decision making that led to the guidelines.
He promised to investigate the issue while affirming his commitment to press freedom.
“These 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. Hence, the Senate President and all his colleagues will continue to work to ensure that these freedoms remain unhindered,” Saraki said.
Regardless, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the “leadership and management of the National Assembly to immediately withdraw the repressive media accreditation guidelines or face legal action.”
SERAP in a statement today by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said implementing the accreditation guidelines would allow the lawmakers to escape accountability for their constitutional functions.
The organisation urged the Senate President Saraki and Dogara to “open the windows and let in the daylight’ of the National Assembly by immediately withdrawing the accreditation guidelines and allowing journalists to freely cover the activities of leadership and members of the National Assembly.”
The organisation said it would: “pursue national and international legal action if the unlawful guidelines is not withdrawn by Friday.”