The Nigerian High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Mrs. Gladys Modupe Quist-Adebiyi, has said that it is in the interest of her Embassy and indeed all Sierra Leoneans to see that the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) and journalism generally develop in the country.
The Nigerian diplomat, who was addressing the SLAJ Executive during a courtesy call on her at her High Commission office, Hill Station in Freetown on Friday February 21, pledged her support to SLAJ in its quest to raise the professional level of their membership.
"I believe in constructive engagement; if journalists have unhindered access [to information], then they can report objectively," said Mrs. Quist-Adebiyi. "We need to get closer and talk and interact with each other."
She promised to play a leading role in ensuring the fusion of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists with the Nigeria Press Union. "I would want to see SLAJ and the Nigeria Press Union sit together and talk on things that will move both unions forward. It is in our interest to see SLAJ develop," she said.
Speaking on the diplomatic relations between Sierra Leone and Nigeria, High Commissioner Quist-Adebiyi said both countries have the responsibility of ensuring that the friendly ties are improved and cemented.
"Nigeria sees Sierra Leone as a sister country. We have similar cultural affinities, therefore, we should come together and build on what unites us," she said. "Both Presidents [Ernest Bai Koroma and Goodluck Jonathan] want us to live peacefully. It is only your neighbour that you can share your problems with, and when your neighbour prospers, you too will prosper. Sierra Leoneans should see Nigerians as their brothers and sisters."
Moreover, the High Commissioner supported the need for the Nigeria Technical Aid Cooperation (TAC) with Sierra Leone to be expanded, noting that her President would be more than willing to support such a proposal. This was, however, in response to SLAJ President, Kelvin Lewis's request for such support to be extended to other disciplines, including the media.
Mrs. Quist-Adebiyi informed SLAJ that she had held a meeting with Sierra Leone's Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Franklyn Bai Kargbo, on Thursday February 20 to see how the TAC could be expanded.
Speaking earlier, SLAJ President Kelvin Lewis informed the High Commissioner that his Executive was elected into office on April 15, 2013 on the promise of bringing specialisation in the journalism profession in the country. It is on this score that he appealed for scholarships to be awarded to some senior lecturers in the school of journalism at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, so as to lift the school - which gives professional training in journalism - higher in the academic ladder.
He appealed for the High Commission's assistance in the SLAJ Executive's drive to provide effective training for journalists so that they could guard themselves against vices that would bring them into conflict with the law.
Mr. Lewis extended a formal invitation to Mrs. Quist-Adebiyi to this year's SLAJ Annual General Meeting holding on 6-8 June in the northern city of Makeni. He also reminded the envoy that all but her predecessor had attended SLAJ AGMs in the past, and therefore wanted the High Commissioner to keep to that tradition.
In his vote of thanks, SLAJ Secretary General, Moses A. Kargbo, appealed to the High Commissioner to facilitate exchange programs for journalists that would see practitioners in Sierra Leone visiting Nigeria to get a feel of how the media operates in that country, and vice versa.
He said SLAJ is willing to forge a good working relationship with the High Commission, and looks forward to more collaboration in the future.
Moses A. Kargbo
National Secretary General, SLAJ