The Cross River State Governor, Senator Ben Ayade has barred Government House Correspondents of CrossRiverWatch, Hit FM, FAD FM and Sparkling FM from covering his activities.
The Governor’s directive, CrossRiverWatch gathered, was given after the recent release of a video where he, alongside his deputy, Professor Ivara Esu were dancing to tunes of hit song “gbe bodie” at Calas Vegas, Calabar.
A government house source who pleaded not to be named informed CrossRiverWatch that: “the governor was very livid about the backlash generated by that video and all accusing fingers were pointed at the CrossRiverWatch correspondent, youth corpers and some other reporters in the governor’s press corps.”
24hours after the release of the video, an internal memo from government house was circulated among members of government house press corps, picking out choice media organizations that will be allowed to cover the governor’s activities henceforth.
The internal memo signed by the Information Officer, Nakanda Iyadim, warned against the sharing of text messages or videos of the Governor’s activities by any correspondent unless it is cleared by the CPS, Mr. Christian Ita, who was not yet reappointed as Chief Press Secretary, CPS at the time.
The memo directed that only the 13 persons who include past aides, Messrs Emmanuel Ulayi, Offiong Onoyom and Beatrice Akpala will be part of the itinerary of Governor Ayade. To that effect, the reporters for CrossRiverWatch, Hit FM, FAD FM, Sparkling FM, NTA and Radio Nigeria will sit and wait for their colleagues as they were not listed in the memo.
The short memo reads:
TO ALL CONCERNED:
His Excellency, the Digital Governor has directed that henceforth, only the underlisted persons should be part of his itinerary:
Channels reporter and camera man;
AIT reporter and camera man;
Ashie Osor (Chronicles);
Daniel Williams, (government house photographer, Nakanda, Sunny Inah (CRBC), Offiong Onoyom (Social media), Emmanuel Ulayi (Social media), Beatrice Akpala and one Camera man.
Further more, no textual (press releases), photographic and video materials must be sent out to the public without the permission and clearance of Mr. Christian Ita.
All concerned persons must adhere to this directive, failure of which will attract severe consequences.
Information Officer, Office of the Governor.
For weeks now CrossRiverWatch Government House Correspondent, Efa Sunday, has been removed from the Government House communication channels. She has reported incidents of hostility in the governor’s office and complained about attempts to make the office uncomfortable for her.
The immediate past Government House correspondent and CrossRiverWatch News Editor, Mr. Jonathan Ugbal faced similar harassment.
He was asked to leave Governor’s Office twice and scolded in public by Governor Ayade thrice. He was also arrested inside Governor’s office alongside Mr. Nakanda, a youth corps member and another photojournalist for allegedly photographing and publishing a picture of the immediate past Attorney General, Joe Oshie Abang while he was sleeping at the EXCO chambers during the signing of the 2018 budget of Kinetic Crystallization.
Our newsroom contacted Mr. Christian Ita who disowned the internal memo saying it was written while he was not yet reappointed.
According to Mr. Ita, “After the elections, our press bus was given to the judiciary and a rickety bus was given to us. We don’t have enough space in the bus that is why we said we need to streamline those who accompany the governor to ensure we have enough space for people to seat until we get a new bus.”
When Mr. Ita was asked if the correspondents can resort to using the vehicles of their individual media organizations or the vehicle belonging to the Association of Cross River Online Journalists ACROJ, Ita remained evasive. He however assured that relations will normalize now that he has been reappointed.
While reacting to the development, CEO of FAD FM, Fidelis Duker, told CrossRiverWatch that: “My staff came back and told me about the development and I have been very upset. This government is becoming a joke. I have warned them all that I don’t want to see any of them near the government house until we are given explanations why that decision was taken in the first place. FAD FM has it’s vehicles and if we need to follow the governor, we don’t need their bus. They are not saying the truth.”
General Manager of Sparkling FM, Mr. Effiong Nyong also expressed dismay at the directive of the governor. Mr Effiong told CrossRiverWatch that he was taken aback by the directive and hoped that it was only a joke.
While also responding to the Governor’s decision, the Association of Cross River Online Journalists (ACROJ) Chairman, Comrade Darlington Edem said “This is against every known law guiding journalistic practice anywhere in the world. We must rise in unity against such dictatorial tendency.”
In his own reaction, the Editor-In-Chief of CrossRiverWatch, Agba Jalingo described the decision of Governor Ayade as draconian and vowed to resist it.
“Governor Ayade thinks he can reinvent the wheel. He can’t. Let him learn from history and save himself from this needless procession to Golgotha. This his decision is an anti-climax to the gains made to ensure a truly free press in Cross River and Nigeria; which is the panacea to the myriads of challenges facing the common man.
“The Governor’s decision to chase out the correspondents for CrossRiverWatch, Hit 95.9 FM, FAD 93.1 FM and Sparkling 92.3 FM in a systemic manner only begs questions of his motives. How does a Governor noted to drive a convoy with up to six empty vehicles each time, expect the public to believe that there is no vehicle to convey these group of reporters to perform their constitutional duty?
“It is clear that the Governor does not want a truly free press in the State. Whether this is a move to censor information from the Government House or is an attempt to subtly stifle the press, we remain resolute in our resolve to report news, views and analysis in a manner in line with the ethics of the profession,” Jalingo said.
The Press Corps at the Government House Calabar, consists of 15 journalists from 10 different media outfits.