7 February 2012

Nigeria: Protocol, SSS Order Arrest of Newsmen At Mmia

Lagos — The protocol department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and State Security Service, SSS, at the Presidential Wing of the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos, yesterday, ordered the arrest of any airport journalist seen around the wing, citing "orders from above."

This came barely 24 hours after Chairman of Lagos State chapter of Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Mr. Deji Elumoye, met with head of the protocol department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Afolabi Oduniyi, who last Saturday threatened to deal with any journalist seen around the wing.

The essence of Elumoye's intervention was to stop further harassment of the journalists to enable them do their job unhindered.

Oduniyi had, late last year, told airport journalists not accredited to cover the airport to submit letters from their various offices for accreditation, which all concerned complied between December 2011 and January 2012.

However, it was learnt that despite submission of the letters, none of concerned had been accredited, while those already accredited and issued identity cards were last Saturday barred from entering the wing to do their job.

Officials of the protocol department have always had a running battle with the journalists who, they alleged, often divert attention of governors, top government functionaries and other VIPs in their efforts to seek monetary gains.

Vanguard gathered, yesterday, that laptops, cameras and other personal belongings of the journalists were confiscated by officials of the two agencies, who claimed that journalists constituted a threat to national security.

Airport journalists had occupied the press centre of the presidential wing for over 35 years, right from the days of the military.

It was also learnt that head of the protocol department, Oduniyi, who gave order to the Air Force personnel not to allow journalists gain access to the wing, was alleged to have tied his action to order from the presidential fleet office in Abuja.

An SSS operative, who sought anonymity, also confirmed that their action was based on orders from above, explaining that the order was not to allow any journalist into the wing, including those with identity cards issued by the protocol department to journalists covering the airport.

Although there had been frequent brushes between journalists and government officials in the wing over reportage of things happening in and around the wing, the latest episode was allegedly provoked by reportage of a robbery incident that occurred at the airport last Wednesday.

The officials wanted the incident unreported but were disappointed that virtually all the media houses represented at the wing went ahead to publish the story.

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