Senate to invoke legislative powers to check harassment of members
The Senate, yesterday, declared that the National Assembly would not hesitate to invoke its legislative powers to deal with further acts of harassment and intimidation of lawmakers under the guise of raid by security agencies, saying it would take appropriate steps to guarantee protection for senators and members of the House of Representatives.
The threat came against the backdrop of alarm raised, Wednesday, by Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), was planning to raid his house.
Consequently, it warned that the National Assembly would no longer tolerate what it described as culture of threats and harassment of its members in whatever guise.
This came on a day the Upper Chamber also barred some cameramen from covering its proceedings at plenary, describing the use of camera during legislative session as a new form of terrorism.
Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, dropped hint of the invocation of legislative powers to protect lawmakers, yesterday, while inaugurating the adhoc committee set up by the Senate to investigate alleged assassination attempt on Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West), and raid of the home of Senator Danjuma Goje, both serving lawmakers in the 8th National Assembly.
Represented by the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, Saraki noted that investigation into the assassination attempt on Dino Melaye must be carried out properly by the committee as that would help protect members of the National Assembly against infringement and threats.
He said: “The 1999 Constitution guarantees every Nigerian the right to life. Like every Nigerian, a senator or member of the Assembly deserves to be protected against infringement, threat and harassment”.
Meanwhile, the Senate, yesterday, barred some cameramen from covering its proceedings at plenary, describing the use of camera during legislative session as a new form of terrorism.
The new Senate’s policy, enforced by the Clerk of the Senate, Nelson Ayewoh, drastically reduced the number of cameramen covering plenary from 13 to six.
Those allowed into the hallowed chamber of the Senate include cameramen from NTA, Channels TV, AIT, TVC, Silverbird and Newage.
The development, however, led to the boycott of the plenary by all the cameramen, including the six that were initially granted entry, even as their colleagues in both print and electronic media condemned the action.
Reacting to the move by the Senate, Chairman of the Senate Press Corps, Cosmas Ekpunobi, in a letter forwarded to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, called for immediate stoppage of the policy to avoid unnecessary friction between the media and the Senate.
A copy of the letter was also forwarded to the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki; Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Sani Omolori, and Clerk of the Senate.
Nelson Ayewoh. Ekpunobi noted that the policy, if not stopped forthwith, might be rightly construed as another attempt to gag journalists as already being insinuated by some of the aggrieved journalists.
He countered earlier argument made by some of the lawmakers that there was no parliament in the world where cameramen were allowed into the chamber, saying technologies used for such coverage in those countries are lacking in Nigeria.
Ekpunobi said: “We have been repeatedly told that there is no parliament in the world where cameramen are allowed into the chamber. But we are also aware that such chambers, as mentioned, have functional central pool unit where professional and experienced broadcast cameramen using latest television technologies, such as Ultra High Definition Cameras, operate to deliver quality feeds. Until such equipment are installed, with the requisite broadcast professionals to man them, we plead for a stay of execution of the sudden policy.”
‘“We, hereby, appeal to you to use your good office to prevail on the Senate bureaucracy and, indeed, the Senate leadership, to rescind this latest decision in the spirit of World Press Freedom Day. In the meantime, we see the development as very unhealthy and a recipe for avoidable friction between the media and the National Assembly”.