Journalists covering the National Conference were on Tuesday barred from attending the proceedings of most of its Committees at the National Judicial Institute, NJI, and the NICON Luxury Hotel.
Before it dissolved into 20 standing committees on Thursday, the Conference leadership did not give any inkling that reporters would be denied access to Committee sittings.
The Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications, Akpandem James, on Tuesday morning assured journalists that there would be no restrictions during the committee sittings.
Mr. James had said, “Journalists can cover the proceedings of all the committees. There are no restrictions. I am only appealing that we report the proceedings of the committee on National Security with caution because of its sensitivity.”
But that was not to be as nine of the 10 committees sittings at the NJI were closed to journalists.
Only the committee on National Security, headed by former Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Gambo Jimeta, opened its doors to journalists to cover its proceedings.
Some of the Committees that locked out journalists at the NJI venue were: Devolution of Power; Political Restructuring and Forms of Government.
Others were Committees on Environment; Politics and Governance; Law, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Reform; Social Sector; Transportation; Science Technology and Development; and Agriculture.
Delegates politely asked some of the journalists who had earlier entered the committees’ sitting rooms to leave shortly before the commencement of proceedings.
Just as the reporters filed out of the committee rooms, the doors were immediately closed and securely bolted from inside.
It is unclear whether the embargo placed on the media from covering proceedings of the various committees will be lifted soon by the leadership of the Conference.
But observers insist that by shutting out the press, the Conference is automatically shutting out Nigerians, who have been keenly following its proceedings through media reports.
However, proceedings of the various committees kicked off on an unstable note.
As at 10 a.m. many of the sitting rooms at the NJI venue were not in order while many of the Committees started their sittings at 11a.m, one hour behind schedule.
The committees, which have been given six working days to conclude their proceedings, appear to be unenthusiastic in beating the deadline, as intra-committee bickering appear to take a larger share of their time, insiders say.
Besides, security has also been stepped up at the venue of the Conference with more security operatives posted to man strategic locations within and outside the NJI venue.
Areas that were hitherto left open for vehicles to park have been blocked by security agencies.
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