By Okey Maduforo Awka
The Independent National Electoral Commission in Anambra’ State has barred journalists from covering its activities,particularly, the ongoing issuance of certificates of return to winners of the State House of Assembly election held on 18th of March 2023 in the state.
The commission through its Public Relations Officer, Dr. Kingsley Agu took the decision to prevent journalists who were at the commission’s headquarters in Awka the state capital for the issuance of the certificates of return to lawmakers elect.
Dr. Agu has been in the eye of the storm in the past two weeks over his unruly and unprofessional conduct to some of the newsmen, especially, members of the Correspondents Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) of the state council.
As a consequence, members of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Anambra State Council, have kicked against what they called the unwholesome and repulsive attitude of the INEC’s Public Relations Officer( PRO), Kingsley Agu.
They have therefore petitioned the Anambra Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Queen Elizabeth Agwu and the Federal Commissioner Information and Voter Education INEC, Abuja, Festus Okoye, to call Agu to order.
According to the petition signed by the Chairman and Secretary of the Correspondents’Chapel, Chief Chuks Ilozue and Mrs Tochukwu Ifejika, respectively, which was copied to the President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists ( NUJ), Comrade Chris Isiguzo and Anambra State Chairman of the Union, Dr Odogwu Emeka Odogwu, the journalists
frowned at the frequent attacks, harrassment , intimidation and insults on journalists in the state by the PRO, Kingsley Agu.
The petitioners alleged that on one occasion, Agu labelled one of their members a suicide bomber, a situation that made security operatives stationed at the INEC Anambra headquarters to treat such member shabbily.
The petition read in part, “We the members of the aforementioned union have resolved to officially communicate you in your capacity as the head of Voter Education and Publicity of the growing incidences capable of endangering the existing working relationship between our members and INEC as orchestrated by the conducts of the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of INEC Anambra state, Dr Kingsley Agu.”
“We write to intimate you about the unwholesome and repulsive attitude of your Public Relations Officer, Dr Kingsley Agu to journalists in Anambra State in general, and especially members of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists ( NUJ), Anambra State council.”
“To begin with, in the just concluded 2023 general elections, Dr AGU unleashed the security operatives stationed at the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Awka against Journalists with special mention of Mr Cajetain Mmuta, the Bureau Chief of ThisNigeria newspaper during which Agu openly told the security operatives that they should be watchful of Journalists entering the commission as they equally could bring in Improvised Explosive Devises (IED) into INEC.
“Considering the weighty nature of the unguided outburst by Agu, Mmuta wrote official compliant to you, but regrettably nothing has been heard from you over such immodest attack on not only the image of media professional, but on the corporate identity of Journalists.
“However, our concern swell due to several other reports by members during our March 2023 monthly meeting that Agu had at different times reported our members mala fide to their offices , an act that has threatened and is still threatening the employments of our colleagues.
“The above scenario in the case of Mmuta when added to many other compliants from respected colleagues on how Dr Agu had talked down on them and insulted them using unprintable words including threatening to issue queries to Journalists and transferring them out of Awka is indeed very worrisome trend capable of jeopardizing the presumed good working relationship with the commission before now.”
“We therefore resolved to do this petition believing that you call Dr Agu to order to avert an avoidable rift that might erupt between our members and your esteem organisation.”
They said, “As you are fully aware,, the public relations department of any organisation is the mouth piece as well as the mirror of any organisation with the public.”
“As professionals in the media industry, we do not want to harbour ill feelings that Agu was doing the bidding of INEC as a body due to the presumed ignominy to Mmuta’s earlier petition to your office dated March 16, 2023 and a copy attached herein.
“We therefore crave your indulgence to call the PRO to order, if he must continue to interface between the Commission and the media in Anambra as not acting in this direction might obviously snowball to something untoward in the near future. Thanks and God bless you,” they added.