ABUJA – The National Conference Chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi (rtd) on Wednesday sent journalists covering the conference out over discussions he said bothered on national security.
About an hour into the plenary to debate the report of its Committee on National Security, security operatives, on Kutigi’s orders, chased journalists away from the conference.
The chairman hinged his decision on the sensitive issues contained in the report of the committee presented by its Deputy Chairman, Chief Albert Horsefall.
“Can the pressmen clear yourselves; the pressmen should disappear, please. Pressmen disappear.
“Shut your cameras; shut everything and get out. Disappear, please. Pressmen disappear from the hall,’’ Kutigi ordered.
At this point, security operatives came up to the gallery where journalists were seated and chased them out while those inside the hall were also chased out.
The security operatives prevented some journalists from packing their belongings and working gadgets.
As the journalists were being walked out, some delegates threatened to stage a walkout in solidarity with the journalists.
The delegates were those representing the Media, Civil Society Organisations and the Labour Unions.
They included former Presidents of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Messrs Lanre Ogundipe and Sani Zoro, Damien Dodo (SAN), Sen. Florence Ita-Giwa, and Femi Falana (SAN).
Others were Chief Raymond Dokpesi, owner of Daar Communications, a representative of NAWOJ, Mrs Brenda Akpan, and Mrs Joe Okei-Odumakin, among others.
They contended that the chairman could have addressed the journalists decently and politely while asking them to excuse the conference.
They, however, appealed to journalists not to allow the incident to dampen their reportage of the conference to the public, whom they were constitutionally obliged to serve.
Meanwhile, Mr James Akpandem, the Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications to the conference, told newsmen that efforts were being made to sort out the matter.
“You have to understand that people have different ways of presenting issues and you must please accommodate the chairman the way he speaks because he is from the judiciary.
“He (Kutigi) is different from the public relations man but he did not mean any harm at all,’’ he said. (NAN