FG supports press freedom, says Maku

By The Citizen

The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Labaran Maku, has assured that the Federal Government has no plan to gag the press.

The minister gave the assurance on Thursday in Asaba at the opening of the 9th All Nigerian Editors Conference.

The theme of the conference is, 'Nigeria beyond oil: The role of the Nigerian Editors.'

Maku said the media were operating in an atmosphere of freedom and vigorous debate.

He said the media had remained the freest in Africa, adding that even in the military era; it operated with a considerable degree of freedom.

He said, 'Nigeria has remained the leader in terms of press freedom in Africa and gagging of the press in this country is not practicable.

'We must worry about the quality of our reports and we need strong ethics for the profession to survive.'

Maku added that the government was favourably disposed to discuss issues pertaining to press council with the Nigeria Guild of Editors and other stakeholders.

The minister said security remained a very serious challenge to the country and called on the media to join hands with the government in fighting the menace.

He said the government was poised to end terrorism and so, had deployed all strategies to fight it.

He added that the transformation agenda of the present administration was based on government's realisation that oil resources would be exhausted.

The minister said the government had embarked on measures at revitalising other sectors of the economy to end the country's dependence on oil.

Maku further urged the media to focus more on the country's economy than politics and said that government would continue to identify with the activities of the Guild.

In his address, the President, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Nigeria needed to envision and evolve a nation beyond oil or it could 'perish.'

He said, 'Petroleum has been our mainstay, and we have allowed the easy money from oil to strangulate other cash cows like agriculture, solid minerals, tourism and many others.

'But as they say, `everyday is not Christmas, and the Egungun (masquerade) festival must end one day. The honeymoon is about ending.''

Adesina added, 'Oil is fast becoming a vanishing source of easy revenue. Nigeria once had a pride of being one of the largest producers of petroleum on the continent, but not anymore.

'Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Cameroun, Chad and some others have also found oil. And much more contentious is the fact that America, our largest customer has discovered shale oil and so may not need to patronise us again.

'I tell you doomsday is by the corner, except we become proactive and stave off the evil.''

He argued that it was inconceivable that a country which could no longer fund its imports remained a consumer nation.