By Olusegun Emmanuel, Abuja.
Journalists assigned to cover ongoing National Conference were yesterday prevented from attending the proceedings of most of its Committees at the National Judicial Institute, NJI, and the NICON Luxury Hotel venues of the sittings.
Delegates resumed sitting yesterday following the dissolution of the Conference into 20 standing committees on last week Thursday.
However, the leadership of the Conference did not give any information that reporters would be denied access to Committee sittings.
The Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications, Akpandem James, on Tuesday morning assured journalists that there would be no restrictions during the committee sittings.
Mr. James had said, “Journalists can cover the proceedings of all the committees. There are no restrictions. I am only appealing that we report the proceedings of the committee on National Security with caution because of its sensitivity.”
However, 9 out of 10 committees’ sittings at the NJI yesterday were done behind closed doors.
Only the committee on National Security, headed by former Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Gambo Jimeta, opened its doors to journalists to cover its proceedings.
Some of the Committees that locked out journalists at the NJI venue were: Devolution of Power; Political Restructuring and Forms of Government.
Others were Committees on Environment; Politics and Governance; Law, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Reform; Social Sector; Transportation; Science Technology and Development; and Agriculture.
Delegates politely asked some of the journalists who had earlier entered the committees’ sitting rooms to leave shortly before the commencement of proceedings.
Just as the reporters filed out of the committee rooms, the doors were immediately closed and securely bolted from inside.
It is unclear whether the embargo placed on the media from covering proceedings of the various committees will be lifted soon by the leadership of the Conference.
As at 10 a.m. many of the sitting rooms at the NJI venue were not in order while many of the Committees started their sittings at 11a.m, one hour behind schedule.
The committees, which have been given six working days to conclude their proceedings, appear to be unenthusiastic in beating the deadline, as intra-committee bickering appear to take a larger share of their time, insiders say.
Besides, security has also been stepped up at the venue of the Conference with more security operatives posted to man strategic locations within and outside the NJI venue.