…He believes that the situation in the country is not irredeemable and can be salvaged…
By Charles Edet
On Thursday, July 7, 2022, Comrade Chris Isiguzo, the National President, Nigeria Union Of Journalists (NUJ) decried the various anti-progress indices that are eating deep into out nation’s growth and threatening its survival.
At a conference held at the National Secretariat of the NUJ, comrade Isiguzo said, “the developments in the country does not require beating the drums for any discerning and critical mind to know, understand and appreciate the need for an urgent appraisal to assist the country we so much cherish to stand stronger than its present wobbling feet.”
The NUJ President, touched virtually every area of national importance that required the attention of the government. He scanned through the insecurity, the dwindling state of education, the poor health care sector, the spiraling inflation, the rule of law, food security, electioneering and the increasing harassment and intimidation of journalists in Nigeria.
Below is the full text of Comrade Christmas sbIsiguzo’s Speech:
“My colleagues in the media, let me most sincerely welcome you all to this press conference.
The National leadership of our noble umbrella organisation, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) invited you here today to avail you of its genuine concerns with some happenings in the polity. We can only remain and call ourselves Nigerians only on the premise of the fact that there is a country known and addressed as Nigeria.
Taking a cursory look at developments within the country, it does not require beating the drums for any discerning and critical mind to know, understand and appreciate the need for an urgent appraisal to assist the country we so much cherish to stand stronger than its present wobbling feet.
The NUJ as a critical stakeholder in the Nigeria project, feels seriously concerned of the need for the Federal Government to quickly move more than ever before in addressing some critical areas of governance such as insecurity, education, health, spiralling inflation, scarcity of petroleum products, power, maintenance of law and order, electioneering, respect for rule of law, food security, arrest, harassment and intimidation of Journalists among others.
Gentlemen of the media, it is almost becoming unbelievable the geometric rate of attacks by terrorists/bandits in different locations. The unfortunate development is certainly unacceptable particularly with the proportion and dimension insecurity has assumed in the country to the extent that no one is sure of where is safe any longer. While terrorism and banditry are ravaging most parts of the North-east, North-west and some states in the North-central geo-political zones, (we are worried at the number of kidnap cases especially in Kaduna, Zamfara and Niger states), IPOB agitation and assumed criminality is sweeping across the South-east, (as at today, Imo and Anambra states have become notorious for disturbing trends in kidnapping and killings.
The security agencies must rise to the occasion especially in Imo state where some arrests have been reportedly made with suspects making mind-boggling revelations. Some
suspects are said to be in custody, since December last year and have even allegedly mentioned names of politicians as their sponsors. Such revelations should not just be ignored.
All those fingered as masterminds of insecurity in the area must be brought to book irrespective of who they are. We are hopeful that the IGP would address these issues as a matter of utmost national importance
As for Anambra, efforts must be intensified in arresting the rising crime wave in the state.
Apart from the South East, other South-south and South-west parts of the country are not also spared of the activities of the dare devil bandits and kidnappers that kill at will thereby making nonsense of the premium value attached to human life. This cannot continue and must not be allowed to continue.
Just last Tuesday night, the audacity of these criminal gangs was expressed in a daring raid on the Kuje Maximum Security Prison in Abuja. The Correctional Facility was breached for hours without any reinforcement being sent after the Soldiers and other guards were overpowered. According to Correctional Service Officials, over 600 Prisoners escaped, including all the Boko Haram members in detention. Before then, a Presidential convoy conveying an advance party of Officials for the Sallah visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Daura was attacked and it took the Presidential Guards much effort to repel the attackers. This is the frightening dimension of security challenges in the Country today.
While we commend the Federal Government, the Nigerian military and other security agencies for their commendable efforts in tackling the situation, we however appeal to the government not to be deterred but to continue in providing the needed support to the Armed Forces, the Police and other security agencies in the fight against all forms of insecurity. The war will surely be won by Nigeria and the enemies of the country shall be put to shame.
Having taken a careful look at the abysmal situation in the education sector with particular reference to tertiary education in the country vis-à-vis the five months old strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). The NUJ wishes to passionately appeal to the good conscience of President Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency, national interest and for the sake of the future generations of Nigerians, personally wade into the matter to save the country from further embarrassment. The country can no longer afford to continue to watch our youths waste away at home with no end in sight for school resumption . The NUJ believes strongly that the personal intervention of Mr. President would go a long way in addressing the issues at stake as against what looks like the back and fort dance steps around the subject matter by some officials of government. We equally appeal to the leadership and members of ASUU to in the overall interest of the nation, accept some of the offers the federal government is proposing to allow for the resumption of academic activities in the Universities.
3. HEALTH CARE DELIVERY
Taking into consideration the devastating effect of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic which took the world by storm and caught Nigeria gasping for breath, it has become imperative for the provision of modern health care facilities and the upgrade of existing hospitals to bring them in line with the acceptable world standards. This will help in reducing medical tourism to the barest minimum and also save the country the needed foreign exchange while also putting a stop to avoidable embarrassments some of our top government officials suffer in the countries they go to seek medical interventions.
4. SPIRALLING INFLATION
From every indication, Nigeria seems to be the only country without mechanisms in place for price control of goods and services. No wonder, prices of essential commodities are galloping on daily basis thus, making cost of living unbearable for the people especially the down trodden that are now unable to afford one meal per day.
This calls for a serious and desirous review of the policies of some of the agencies of government that seem to be at variance with the good intention of the federal government. Simply put, agencies of government cannot continue to increase the cost of services without enabling laws to back such increases and expect cost of goods and other essentials to remain constant. There is therefore the need for a Central harmonization and control mechanism committee or panel that should be empowered by the presidency always harmonise some of the policies of the different agencies of government with a view to avoiding the lack of sync in the policies of government. The present inflation rate cannot be sustained and or coped with by the people that are already at their end wits.
Closely related to this is the scarcity, time wasting and cost of petroleum products particularly the PMS, cooking gas and aviation fuel that are now out of reach in addition to the epileptic power supply being experienced in the Federal Capital city, the seat of power and other parts of the country. This is even against the backdrop of increased budgetary subsidy of petroleum products.
The situation has led to many companies folding up business owing to high and prohibitive cost of production that cannot be measured or passed to the consumers. This critical area therefore needs to be quickly addressed for the good of the country.
5. RULE OF LAW
The present situation in which some citizens assume that the law is only meant for the masses and not everyone has to be checked before it further degenerates into an uncontrollable situation that may further worsened the insecurity crisis. The law should be adhered to strictly and respected by all. A situation where some governors, officials and agencies of government flagrantly dismiss or ignore the rulings of competent Courts of jurisdiction is unacceptable and must be guarded against. No one, no matter how highly placed in the society, should have the slightest impression that he/she is above the law as the law must be blind and remain blind to all.
While the NUJ wishes to commend the recognised political parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for their successful primary and presidential conventions, it is however worried that rather than address germane issues that are affecting Nigerians, politicians from every indication are more interested in focusing on mundane things that have no direct impact on the lives and wellbeing of the people. More worrisome is the ethnic dimensions the campaigns ahead of INEC approved time table and support for candidates are assuming. Pointedly put, rather than think Nigeria as Nigerians, the people are unconsciously being dragged into the gulf of disunity that would not do the country any good. In this wise, the NUJ wishes to call on politicians to save the country the pains of further eroding the fragile unity of the nation and should instead work towards the promotion of values that would enhance the unity and oneness of the people of Nigeria.
7. VOTER REGISTRATION. The NUJ is aware that the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) has thrown more panic into the process as centers/platforms are seen being populated and experiencing the highest traffic activities. It is therefore pertinent to urge that the process should be intensified and sustained rather than yielding to the selfish whims and caprices of some interest groups. We encourage INEC to continue to exercise its mandates in a fair, just, and non-discriminatory manner. Voters are critical stakeholders in the electoral process and should be treated as such.
The Union believes that extending the deadline for voter registration for a much longer period would be entirely in consonance with constitutional and
international standards, and the Electoral Act 2022 as well. Also, any such extension would definitely not impact negatively on INEC’s election calendar and activities.
8. ROADS. Federal roads in the country have completely broken down and are now death traps, especially now that the rains have set in. The situation is also contributing to the level of insecurity in the Country as motorists are forced to slow down in very dangerous locations to navigate out of so many potholes on our highways, thus falling prey to criminal gangs. The NUJ appeals for a complete overhaul of the road network in the country and we urge the Federal Government to ensure speedy rehabilitation of the rail system. A situation where road accidents take more lives than communicable diseases gives cause for concern.
9. FOOD SECURITY
As earlier observed, insecurity ravaging parts of the country has in no small measure affected agricultural production thereby causing scarcity of food products.
The NUJ however, believes that the situation is not irredeemable and can be salvaged just as it is also of the strong view that intervention of government at all levels in this sector will go a long way in alleviating the sufferings the people are undergoing. As a temporary measure, the Federal Government can move a step further by releasing some of its reserved grains from its silos in addition to other measures to cushion the effect of the crises being experienced.
10. HARRASSMENT AND INTIMIDATION OF JOURNALISTS
We cannot end this press conference without addressing a matter of serious concern to the leadership of the NUJ under my watch and guide. It has to do with the unwarranted and unacceptable manner some security agencies have allowed themselves to be cheaply used by some unscrupulous politicians to harass, intimidate, arrest and most often times detain Journalists for carrying out their legitimate and constitutionally assigned duties and responsibilities of holding government and its functionaries accountable.
A situation where a politician runs to the police on very flimsy issues alleging libel or slander over published stories without following laid down legal procedures and clear provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), must be checked by the heads of the security agencies concerned. In the same vein, a situation whereby the police or any of the security agencies now want to assume the role of the courts should not and cannot be tolerated.This must be stopped forthwith owing to the fact that the law is clear and properly defined on such matters. Journalists must be allowed to carry out their professional duties in the public interest without intimidation and harassment.
We wish to state in unambiguous terms, that the NUJ shall no longer sit and watch such acts of impunity against its members to continue.
On our part, we shall continue to ensure that our members adhere to the ethics of the profession in line with global best practices.
I thank you all for coming and for your rapt attention”.