Online Media Practitioners Association of Nigeria (OMPAN) received with shock, the news of Governor Umahi's life ban on two A-list journalists: Chijioke Agwu of Sun Newspaper and Peter Okutu of Vanguard newspaper respectively.
It is rather unfortunate, that in this particular time where stakeholders the world over are closing ranks to create a common front, to execute the war against the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic that's sweeping through Nigeria, a governor who should be seen sleeves up, in service, to ensure the safety of his people from the pandemic and it's immediate and eventual economic implications, is instead wasting time on a losing battle against journalists going about their legitimate business.
What is particularly scary and of great concern, is the governor's spat during a statewide broadcast, that if "the journalists think they have the pen, he has the koboko". This arrogance was also on display when he declared, in clear Draconian style, that the people of the state might unleash mayhem on the journalists if they refuse to leave Ebonyi state.
OMPAN considers the above statement a call to violence against the journalists whose only sin is reporting the true state of affairs in the state. Here then, is why OMPAN wants to state categorically clear, that should anything happen to the two journalists, Governor David Umahi should be ready to take responsibility, or face the wrath of the pen he has so arrogantly and disdainfully dismissed.
For the sake of peace, especially in this material time, OMPAN calls on Governor Umahi to beat a quick retreat, lift the needless ban and retract his damaging statements with respect to the safety of the journalists without delay.
The Nigerian Journalists is held to a code of conduct and ethics which if violated, invites sanction(s) commensurate with the transgression(s). However, nowhere was it stated that state governors can usurp the powers of the Nigerian Union of Journalists which is the statutory body responsible for the discipline of erring members, to play judge and jury on issues bothering on the professionalism of journalists.
The authors of the Nigerian Constitution didn't make a mistake when they unambiguously spelt out the right of the journalist in section 39 subsection one of the 1999 constitution as amended. And, under no circumstances will OMPAN fold it's arms and watch governors or other trigger happy Executives continue to trample on the sanctity of the Journalism profession.