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Ebonyi unbans journalists as media groups berate governor

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Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State yesterday lifted the ban he placed on two journalists, calling on the media to partner with him in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

He had barred the correspondents of the Sun and Vanguard newspapers, Chijioke Agwu, and Peter Okutu, from entering the Government House or any government facility in the state over ‘unsavoury’ reports.

But in a statement issued yesterday in Abakaliki by the Commissioner for Information and State Orientation/ Acting Commissioner for Human Capital Development and Monitoring, Orji Uchenna Orji, the governor noted that no reporter was barred from government establishments.

The statement read in part: “In keeping with the commitment of the Governor of Ebonyi State, David Nweze Umahi, towards protecting Ebonyi people from the scourge of coronavirus and his unflinching passion to preserve Ebonyi State on the path of dignity and prosperity, he has directed me to inform members of the public as follows:

“The governor thanks all our leaders and stakeholders in Ebonyi State and Nigeria at large for all their sacrifices in our battle against this unfortunate coronavirus pandemic.

“The governor commends and thanks many of the journalists in Ebonyi State for standing strong with the Ebonyi State government in this unfortunate pandemic situation in Nigeria and assures all journalists of government’s continued support to carry out their professional duties unhindered. We also appeal to them to work with the state government for the benefit of Ebonyi State and the entire country.”

However, the Partnership for Media and Democracy (PAMED), comprising Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and the International Press Centre (IPC), has petitioned the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), urging sanction against the governor for allegedly breaching his oath of office and the Code of Conduct for Public Officers following his recent outbursts at media practitioners in the South-East state.

In the letter addressed to its chairman, Mohammed Isa, the groups urged the bureau to immediately investigate Umahi with a view to imposing “severe sanction for not abiding by his oath of office.”

They contended: “ Mr. Umahi is unfit to continue to hold the office of governor, and (for) the bureau to investigate the matter and invoke the provisions of Paragraph 18(2)(a) and (b) of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers contained in the constitution to secure his removal from office and disqualification from holding any public office in Nigeria for the next 10 years.”

The media rights organisations also accused “the governor of violating his Oath of Office and the Oath of Allegiance, contravening several provisions of the 1999 Constitution, putting Nigeria in a situation of having breached its international treaty obligations, particularly Article 66(2)(c) of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty, whereas a member-state of the Economic Community of West African States, Nigeria agreed to co-operate with other member states in the area of information and undertook to “ensure respect for the rights of journalists.”


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