Imo lawmakers abandon Assembly complex over fear of collapse

Acho Ihim

Journalists condemn new media bill

Imo lawmakers have relocated from the House of Assembly Complex at new Owerri to a temporary venue at Odumegwu-Ojukwu Centre in the capital.The complex, which was under renovation for nearly two years before it was opened in June 2015, had again shown disturbing signs of serious structural defects.

The Speaker of the House, Chief Acho Ihim, who confirmed the relocation to journalists at the weekend in Owerri, said it was to enable the permanent building to be reinforced.

In another development, a former chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the state, Chief Fidel Onyeneke, and some Imo-based journalists, have condemned a bill sponsored by the deputy speaker of the Assembly, Ugonna Ozuruigbo, seeking to amend registration of newspapers. Onyeneke said it was an attempt to gag the press in the state.

The bill titled: ‘’A Law to repeal and re-enact the newspaper law of Eastern Region of Nigeria Law No. 24 of 1955 and newspaper Law Edict No. 3 of 1984 and other matters connected thereto,’’ according to the sponsor, is to ‘’ensure improved newspaper publication to specific requirement before published and sold in Imo.’’

Ozuruigbo had argued that the old law, which empowered registration of newspapers for a fee of N50, was inadequate in accruing revenue.“It is unfortunate that for years now, newspapers have been registering in Abuja thereby depriving the state of accruable revenue from the process,” he said.

In a statement in Owerri, he said that the bill, if passed and assented to by Governor Rochas Okorocha, could ‘’prevent journalists from carrying out their legitimate social responsibilities.’’

Onyeneke, who is a national trustee of the NUJ, affirmed that the bill should be jettisoned in order not to constitute a threat to Nigeria’s nascent democracy, noting that it contained aspects that are “inimical to the operations of the media, infringing on the rights of journalists and other media practitioners in Imo State.’’

He noted that the Nigerian constitution had made adequate provision for the media practice and journalism. He added that the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) and other agencies had capacities legally to regulate media practice, requiring no more from the state.

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