Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi
Journalists were Thursday denied entry into the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Bauchi State Branch, venue of the distribution of sensitive materials by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to the 20 Local Government Areas of the state.
THISDAY checks revealed that there was a heavy presence of security within and outside the premises of the CBN with an armoured tank stationed at the gate.
The journalists, representing different local and national media organisations working in the state from both the broadcast and the print had gone to the CBN to cover the distribution process.
Several pleas by the journalists to the security at the gate of the CBN to allow them entry to cover the distribution proved abortive as they said they were carrying out order from above.
Within the premises, many vehicles combined team of several security comprised of the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps and the Department of State Services were sighted.
Reacting, the Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Bauchi State Council, Ibrahim Mallam Goje, expressed disappointment with the development.
He wondered why journalists who are supposed to be part of all INEC’s processes preparatory to the general elections would be denied entry into the venue where sensitive materials are being distributed to the LGAs.
Goje said he and the Public Relations Officer of INEC met the branch controller of the CBN and asked him to allow the journalists into the venue but he refused.
The NUJ chairman said: “He (CBN Controller) told me that no person, with exception of the security men and INEC officials and political parties are allowed into the CBN. After insisting severally, he told me that it was an order from the top, so I decided not to persist.”
Goje said “Traditionally, every stage of the process including the distribution is supposed to be done in the presence of journalists.”
“I feel disappointed that my members are supposed to be allowed into every place because they are the eyes and ears of the people.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) in Bauchi State, Alhaji Shehu Barau Ningi, has faulted INEC for the distribution of the sensitive materials on Thursday.
Ningi who spoke to journalists in front of the CBN in Bauchi, said that INEC did not inform the stakeholders that the sensitive materials would be distributed on Thursday “we would have advised them to wait till tomorrow (Friday).”
He expressed worry over the safety of the materials being distributed to the LGAs, saying that “I am worried about distribution of sensitive materials to the local government areas, it shouldn’t have been today but tomorrow morning.
“If you distribute today, then the sensitive materials will have to stay in that local government throughout the night till Friday before they are distributed, where would they be kept? At the Police Station? At INEC? We are not comfortable with this arrangement of the sensitive materials distributed on Thursday.”
He however, expressed satisfaction with the arrangements by INEC especially the security put in place at the CBN.