SPONSOR of the draconian bills seeking amendments into laws establishing the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) has announced the suspension of the legislative process on the bills. – Odebunmi
Olusegun Odebunmi, a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the House of Representatives from Oyo State, announced the suspension when he appeared on Sunrise Daily, a Channels Television programme, on Tuesday.
According to him, the suspension was necessary to allow consultation with stakeholders in the industry.
“Personally, I’m suspending the process for more consultation,” he said, while stressing that his intention was not to gag the press but to make some amendments aimed at fixing lapses in the practice of journalism in the country.
He argued that the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) could not gag the activities of the National Assembly by an outright rejection of the bills.
“What I’m saying is that the NUJ cannot gag the activities of the national assembly by saying, ‘no you must drop it because obviously, that is not the way.
“We have suspended the process for more consultation to happen on it. They demanded a lot of time and I said ‘no problem, we have given you; even if you spend three, four to five weeks.’ So far, more consultations from critical stakeholders, and many people have been submitting their memoranda to the National Assembly, even within the industry.
“My intention is not to gag the press and unless all the practitioners can say all is well with the industry, to the best of my knowledge, I know all is not well.
“And I know the National Assembly has the power to look into the existing Act. All is not well with the NPC agency. It is an agency of government and you’re expecting something to be given back to the society but until now nothing has been coming from the agency.”
The bills have attracted widespread condemnation for seeking to gag the press, The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and media practitioners have described the bills as draconian and unconstitutional.
The Press Council bill seeks to give more powers to the minister of information to control the conduct of print media houses and media practitioners.
According to Section 3 (c) of the bill, “with the approval of the minister in charge of information, establish and disseminate a national Press Code and standards to guide conduct of print media, related media and media practitioners.”
The minister will also approve penalties and fines against violation of the Press Code by print media houses and media practitioners, including revocation of license. The minister is to consider applications for the establishment, ownership and operation of print media and other related media houses.