Sanni Onogu, Abuja
The Clerk to the Senate Committee on Special Duties, Kabir Yaba Umar, on Friday walked-out reporter from the panel’s budget defence session.
Umar had on Friday morning officially invited the Senate Press Corps to cover budget defence session of the North-East Development Commission and the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
The panel’s scribe said the two events would hold at the Senate Hearing Room 211 by 2pm and 4pm respectively.
Reporters from different media platforms got to the venue on schedule and started taking notes when Umar walked up to the reporters and ordered them to get out in the full view of the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Yusuf Yusuf, and members of the panel.
Members of the Committee included the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume; ex-Governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima; and former Governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Geidam and the Senator representing Adamawa North, Elisha Abbo, among others.
Umar said he was working on the directive of the Committee chairman to prevent journalists from media organisations except the NTA and the National Assembly Television (NASSTV), covering the session.
The Clerk asked the reporters to do their worst because he had the right to choose who should be allowed into the budget defence session or otherwise.
Umar said: “I have already told your colleagues who had been here before you that you guys are not wanted here. I have the directive of the Chairman to do what I’m doing. “
Asked if he was aware that his action could be reported in the media, Umar said, “Go ahead, I don’t care what you write.”
The board and management of the NEDC and the refugee commission were expected to tell Nigerians how they hope to tackle the worsening humanitarian crises and aggravated malnutrition in the insurgency ravaged northeastern part of the country.
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, had on Monday denied that the Senate is holding secret budget defence sessions with MDAs.
He had said it was share misrepresentation of fact to say that journalists were not allowed to cover the budget defence sessions going on at the National Assembly.
Lawan was reacting to report published in the media last week that journalists were barred from covering budget defence events by some Senate panels.
“There is no shut out of the press from what we do,” Lawan had said in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Ola Awoniyi.
“We need the press to tell Nigerians what we are doing. You (journalists) are our friends. That was a misunderstanding (of what happened).
The Senate President said it should be expected that journalists, at some point, may be excused from such meetings when sensitive issues that bothered on national security were being discussed.
“I want to assure Nigerians that whatever we do in this Senate and indeed in this National Assembly is in the best interest of Nigeria. We will not compromise on anything as far as the national interest is concerned,” Lawan said.
The Senate standing order 2015, as amended states in chapter 8(102) on rules of procedure for committees in general states:
“Each hearing conducted by each committee or Sub-committee thereof shall be open to the public except when the Committee or sub-committee in opened session and with a majority present, determines, by roll call shall vote that all or part of the reminder of that hearing on that day shall be closed to the public because disclosure of testimony, evidence or other matters to be considered would endanger national security or would violate any law or rule of the Senate.”