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National Conference Never Barred Journalists From Committee Proceedings - Spokesperson

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SAN FRANCISCO, April 23, (THEWILL) â€' The Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications, Akpandem James, said on Wednesday that journalists were never barred from covering the National Conference committee proceedings.

He made the clarification following reports that journalists were barred from proceedings of the committee which began on Tuesday.

James, who addressed journalists at the National Judicial Institute (NJI) venue, said the leadership at no time gave any order for the media to be restricted from covering any aspect of the Conference.

He said out of the 20 Standing Committees, only the Committee on Devolution of Power initially barred journalists from covering its deliberations.

He explained that the leadership of the Committee thought committee sessions were restricted and therefore were not open to direct media coverage.

'You cannot say that journalists were barred from covering activities of Conference Committees if only one out of the 20 Committees misunderstood the fact that the sittings were supposed to be open to the media.

'I have just gone in to inform the one of the Co-chairmen of the Committee, that reporters should be allowed to cover every aspects of the Committee's work and he immediately agreed that they should come in,' James said.

While enjoining journalists covering the Conference to always refer issues they have to his office for prompt attention, noted that it was hasty of some reporters to conclude that journalists were being barred from covering Committee proceedings, when the matter only involved a single committee.

'When journalists were allowed to access the Committee, its Co-Chairman, Obong Victor Attah, advised them to be fair and objective in reporting activities of the Conference; pointing to a particular report in one of the newspapers that morning that there was a disagreement between him and the Co-Chairman of the Committee, Alhaji Ibrahim Commassie.

'Please let us act with absolute responsibility. Record what you want to record, but please do it with absolute sense of responsibility and with the understanding that what you do will engender unity and peace in Nigeria,' he said.

The Committee which started its sitting on Tuesday has started debate on resource control. Many of the delegates were in agreement on the need for resource control but wished that its implementation be delayed to enable all parts of the country to be ready to embrace it.

Having attended three subsequent Conferences, Senator Jack Tilley Gyado, said every time the issue of resource control comes on the table, people become apprehensive.

'A lot of marriages break down due to lack of money and how it is spent. I must align myself with the contributions of Ibrahim Mantu.

'With 13 per cent being given the South-South, with the NDDC, Ministry of Niger Delta, the SURE-P, the Amnesty and normal allocations to the states, I advise we make haste slowly in asking for more to be given. I believe that the timing of the request is wrong although the request is good,' he said.

On his part, an Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said he is privileged to be part of those who started the agitation for resource control in the country during which Western Region used 50 per cent of its resources to carry our massive development of the region.

He said it was the military that decided on the 50 per cent and 13 per cent derivation formula , adding that the nation has a new opportunity to right the wrongs of the past.

'It was after the military coup of 1966 that the military imposed this system on us and it has been causing trouble ever since,' Adebanjo said.

The Committee on Environment has set up four sub committees. These include Climate Change; Pollution and Gas Flaring; Deforestation, Drought and Bush Burning; and Waste Management/Mining. The sub-Committees have since resumed work and will submit their various reports to the Committee based on the dateline set by the Conference Secretariat.