President Muhammadu Buhari‘s administration yesterday disregarded freedom of the press and barred The PUNCH, ThisDay, Vanguard, Tribune, New Telegraph, The Nation correspondents from covering the President’s visit to Benue.
From left: President Muhammadu Buhari with Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue; Senator George Akume and Gen. Lawrence Onoja (retd), shortly after his sympathy visit to Benue, yesterday, over recent killings in the state.
Punch newspaper reports that about 30 correspondents from various media organisations arrived Benue state to cover the President’s visit but only seven handpicked media organisations were allowed to do so.
Their correspondent, who had gone to the Benue State Government House in the early hours of Monday, was told that Punch was not among those allowed to cover the visit.
Checks revealed that there was a directive from the Presidency to restrict the number of media organisations to cover the visit to seven.
The media allowed to cover the visit were The News Agency of Nigeria, Daily Sun, Voice of Nigeria, Daily Trust, Leadership, The Guardian and Daily Independent.
Punch newspaper adds that no reason was given for the decision.
Their correspondent noted that security operatives from Abuja took over the activities at the state’s seat of government.
Apart from journalists, invited stakeholders were turned back at the third gate of the Government House where security, mainly operatives of the Department of State Services, checked the names of guests against a list they clutched jealously.
A group of protesting youths, who had stormed the venue to register their grievances over incessant killings in the state, were sent away by security men. Their placards, Punch reports, were seized.
One of the protesters, Jonah Kwaor, who described the operatives as overzealous, said,
“We wanted the President to know the magnitude of the senseless killings in our communities, but security men, including the police, drove us away and seized some of our placards.”
Members of the Peace Corps, who attempted to enter the Government House to appeal to the President to rescind his decision and sign the Peace Corps bill, were also prevented from entering.
President Buhari’s visit to the state Chairman of the state traditional council, Tor Tiv, Prof. James Ayatse alongside his scheduled visit to the Internally Displaced People’s camp at Gbamjiba, in the Guma Local Government Area were all reportedly cancelled.