THE NIGERIA Union of Journalists (NUJ) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari and other Nigerian leaders to address the country’s problems without delay.
NUJ President Christopher Isiguzo made the demand at a ‘State of the Nation Press Conference’ in Abuja on Thursday.
Making reference to recent developments in the country, Isiguzo expressed concerns over the state of the nation.
He said journalists, being citizens of the country, are critical stakeholders in nation-building and could only profess to be Nigerians when the nation exists.
“The NUJ as a critical stakeholder in the Nigeria project feels seriously concerned about the need for the Federal Government to quickly move more than ever before in addressing some critical areas of governance such as insecurity, education, health, spiralling inflation, scarcity of petroleum products, power, maintenance of law and order, electioneering, respect for the rule of law, food security, arrest, harassment and intimidation of journalists, among others.”
He condemned the ‘geometric’ rise in the rate of attacks by terrorists and bandits in parts of the country.
According to Isiguzo, no one can boast of safety anywhere in the nation.
The NUJ President challenged security agencies to turn the tide in all states with insecurity issues in the country.
He cited the situation in Imo State, where suspects arrested for crimes named their sponsors and the government and police failed to take any concrete action months after the confession as proof of the government’s insincerity in fighting crimes.
Isiguzo expressed shock at the audacity of the attack on the Kuje Prison in Abuja on Tuesday and a similar attack on Buhari’s advance convoy in Katsina State hours earlier.
The NUJ President frowned at the nearly five-month-old strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which has crippled university education in public universities in the country.
He called on President Buhari to intervene in the crisis to “save the country from further embarrassment”.
Isiguzo also implored ASUU to accept what the government offered after negotiations.
On health care, the NUJ leader advised that there was an urgent need to provide modern health care facilities and upgrade existing hospitals to align with acceptable world standards.
While speaking on spiralling inflation, he said Nigeria appeared to be the only country without mechanisms for price control of goods and services.
“No wonder prices of essential commodities are galloping on a daily basis. Thus, making the cost of living unbearable for the people, especially the downtrodden that are now unable to afford one meal per day.”
He added: “Closely related to this is the scarcity, time wasting and cost of petroleum products particularly the PMS, cooking gas and aviation fuel that are now out of reach in addition to the epileptic power supply being experienced in the Federal Capital city, the seat of power and other parts of the country. This is even against the backdrop of increased budgetary subsidy of petroleum products.
“The situation has led to many companies folding up business owing to the high and prohibitive cost of production that cannot be measured or passed to the consumers. Therefore, this critical area needs to be quickly addressed for the country’s good.”
While urging the government to obey court orders and lead by the dictates of the Constitution, he cautioned politicians against making statements capable of “eroding the fragile unity of the nation”.
He charged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to allow more Nigerians to register for voter cards while the Commission continues to exercise its mandates in a fair, just, and non-discriminatory manner.
Isiguzo also condemned the state of federal roads in the country.
He said the condition of the roads contributes to the nation’s insecurity, adding that “a situation where road accidents take more lives than communicable diseases gives cause for concern.”
Meanwhile, the NUJ President advised the Buhari government to release some of its reserved grains from its silos and take other measures to cushion the effect of food crises.
Besides, he kicked against the harassment and illegal arrest and detention of journalists in the country by security agencies and politicians “for carrying out their legitimate and constitutionally assigned duties and responsibilities of holding the government and its functionaries accountable”.
He stressed: “Journalists must be allowed to carry out their professional duties in the public interest without intimidation and harassment.
“We wish to state in unambiguous terms that the NUJ shall no longer sit and watch such acts of impunity against its members continue.
“On our part, we shall continue to ensure that our members adhere to the profession’s ethics in line with global best practices.”