Ibrahim Shehu FRCN
The Chairman, House of Representatives committee on information, national orientation, ethics and values, Mr Olusegun Odebunmi, says he will ensure speedy action on the Journalism Enhancement Bill before the National Assembly.
Mr Odebunmi, who stated this during an interview with Radio Nigeria said he was not aware of the bill before but that he would dig it out and take immediate action on it to enhance professionalism in the media industry.
He stated that the bill proposed the minimum entry point for editorial staff, conditions of service to commensurate with what obtains at the Federal Civil Service, and the payment of hazard allowance to journalists.
The lawmaker said apart from remuneration, the bill also states that The Nigeria Union of Journalists, the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria should ensure the implementation of the eligibility criteria for entry into and practice of journalism in Nigeria, as contained in the Nigerian Press Council Decree No 85 of 1992.
“All professionals and trade unions of media workers and owners notably the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) and the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) should partner the Nigerian Press Council and make it mandatory for all potential journalists to register with the relevant professional and regulatory bodies after fulfilling a basic requirement and be accredited to practice. They must also sign to uphold the code of conduct and ethics for Nigerian Journalists.”
On the proposed Nigerian Press Council Bill, Mr Odebunmi debunked the insinuation that it was sponsored by the Federal Government through the Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
According to him the bill with the title “A Bill For An Act To Amend The Nigerian Press Council Act. Cap N128, Laws of The Federation Of Nigeria 1992 to remove Bottlenecks Affecting its Performance and make the Council in tune with the Current realities in Regulating Press” was only influenced by his passion to ensure the effectiveness of the regulating agencies and not to gag the media as being poorly muscled by some sectors of the public
“Most of the people commenting on the bill do not know of it. The bill was not sponsored by Federal Government, even the Minister of Information was only aware a few days to presentation and he did not have any input on the bill, it is my idea because I feel we should not wait for the supreme court judge to do what is right by amending the existing controversial law.”
The lawmaker maintained that stakeholders in the media industry have the right to reject the minister, as the one to approve the code of conduct since the bill is still undergoing scrutiny by the House of Representatives.
He urged stakeholders to come together and come up with a code that would be approved and put together by professional journalists.