11 December 2012

Nigeria: Leadership Petitions Mark, World Editors, NUJ Over Senate C'ttee's Harassment

LEADERSHIP Group Ltd, publisher of LEADERSHIP, has petitioned Senate President David Mark to urgently intervene in the case of alleged harassment over a story published in the May 28, 2012, edition of the newspaper, entitled 'N3bn Pension Scam: We Bribed Senate Committee In Dollars - Suspect.'

The petition, which was signed by counsel to Leadership Group Ltd and principal partner of M.S. Ibrahim and Company (Barristers and Solicitors), Mustapha Shaba Ibrahim, recalled that the Senate President had instructed the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to investigate the said story which suggested that Dr. Shuaibu Teidi claimed to have bribed some members of the Senate.

It noted that having attended several meetings of the said committee, LEADERSHIP believed there was a need to petition the said committee to the president of the Senate, as it appeared that some members of the committee had a vendetta against the newspaper.

The petition further stated that it was a bid to cooperate with the committee, despite the danger it could pose to the ethics of journalism practice, that led the firm's team to tell the committee that the story was published based on information received from a source, LEADERSHIP provided a recorded audio compact disk with a transcript of the statement made by the said Dr. Teidi and the source, thereby, furnishing the best evidence to the committee to aid it in carrying out its investigation.

According to the petition, the committee surprisingly invited LEADERSHIP for a further hearing on Wednesday, November 21, 2012, and immediately demanded that the source of information was provided in person, a point the managing editor, Mr. Iyobosa Uwugiaren, explained to the committee that it would amount to a breach of professional ethics to reveal the source.

According to the petition, "Upon commencement of the meeting, our client noticed that Dr. Teidi was conspicuously absent and no form of query or reason for his absence was proffered. The committee immediately demanded that our client provide in person the source of its story, and our client, who was represented by its managing editor, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, politely explained to the committee that it would amount to a serious breach of their ethics to reveal the source and that the audio CD that had the transcript was what they had in their possession.

"The committee was further informed that since its last sitting, Dr. Teidi had instituted an action at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (Suit No: CV/ 3768/ 12) against our client for defamation, and since a statement of defence had been filed, it may amount to re-litigating what was already before a court of law.

"Before our client could even conclude his statement, a member of the committee, Senator Heineken Lokbobiri, became aggressive to our client and resorted to calling him names such as 'stupid.' "Another senator and chairman, Senate Committee on Establishment, Senator Aloysius Etuk, made an allegation that one Abdulrasheed Maina sponsored our client to do the publication."

The petitioner went on to state that while its client was wondering the reason for unfair treatment meted to it, "our client's managing editor was physically assaulted by Mr. Jonathan T. Toruemi, the clerk of the committee, who was beating the chest of our client's managing editor much to the pleasure and approval of the duo of senators Heineken Lokbobiri and Aloysius Etuk."

The Nigeria Guild of Editors, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), World Editors Forum, Global Editors Network, chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions and Speaker, House of Representatives, were copied in the petition.

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