ABUJA, Nigeria – Senate Committee Chairman on Special duties, Senator Yusuf Yusuf on Friday during the budget defence of the North East Development Commission sent journalists out of the session.
Yusuf Yusuf through the administrative Clerk to the Committee, Kabir Yaba Umar ordered that no journalist should cover the session except the NTA, even when Senate Press Corps was officially invited for the session.
The newly established North East Development Commission, NEDC, and the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs were expected to tell Nigerians how funds intended to be appropriated to them would be spent.
At a point, Umar who personally signed invitation letter to Media men became unruly, insisting that Chairman of the Committee did not want journalists to cover the defence of the session scheduled for 2 and 4pm respectively.
Members of the Committee included a former Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, a former governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, former governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Geidam and the Senator representing Adamawa North, Elisha Abbo, among others.
Umar dared the reporters to write whatever they like when reminded that he invited them.
He 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.”
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, had on Monday denied that Senate committees were organising secret budget defence sessions with ministries and agencies of government.
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.
Reacting to reports published in some dailies, he said: “There is no shut out of the press from what we do,” Lawan 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 bother on national security were being discussed after the opening had been done.
“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 inducted by each committee or Sub-committee thereof shall be open to the public. “