The Chairman of the National Conference, Justice Idris Kutigi (rtd) yesterday barred journalists from covering the conference.
Kutigi claimed the journalists were shut out over discussions that bothered on national security.
Our reporter gathered that security operatives acting on order from the conference chairman chased out journalists an hour into the plenary to debate the report of its Committee on National Security, security.
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.
After the ‘disappear’ order from the chairman, security operatives hurriedly 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.
Some of the delegates who were not comfortable with the position of the chairman threatened to join the journalists outside.
The delegates were those representing the Media, Civil Society Organisations and the Labour Unions.
Also among them 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.
The protesting delegates averred 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.
Peoples Daily recalled that in April, journalists covering the National Conference were barred from attending the proceedings of most of its Committees at the National Judicial Institute, NJI, and the NICON Luxury Hotel.
Some of the Committees that locked out journalists at the NJI venue were: Devolution of Power; Political Restructuring and Forms of Government.
Others were Committees on Environment; Politics and Governance; Law, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Reform; Social Sector; Transportation; Science Technology and Development; and Agriculture.