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Gagging of the media, what is Lagos hiding?

June 15, 2009

Democratic Peoples’ Alliance (DPA) has accused the Action Congress (AC) government in Lagos State of planning to deceive the public through a recent directive banning some categories of public office holders from talking to the Press.

Declaring the instruction as evidence of unparalleled hypocrisy and condemnable in a statement by its Director of Publicity, Felix Oboagwina, the party said that the order ran at variance with democracy as well as compromising the right of the public to know.

DPA wondered that such a move should emanate from an AC that had always thrown its weight behind the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill currently in the National Assembly, and had loudly condemned the Oath of Secrecy the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lately administered on its staff over the Ekiti rerun elections.

In the words of DPA: “What does the Lagos State Government of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola have to hide? This uncommon step to silence associates can only mean that there are skeletons in the AC government’s lockers it is afraid its operatives will carelessly leak to the public.”

DPA regarded the directive coming at this time as highly suspicious, especially when viewed against the backdrop of the state’s refusal to tell Lagosians:

  * How much exactly it pays Alpha-Beta from the IGR,
  * How much it was awarding contracts and projects,
  * The Governor’s refusal to disclose his pre-office and post-tenure worth,
  * The secret selling off of Lagos assets to the Governor’s associates and business partners, and
  * The growing disenchantment within the civil service, amongst other things.

Citing AC’s condemnation of Vice President Jonathan Goodluck’s failure to publish his assets when both Fashola hid his under wraps, DPA also said it would not be the first time AC was serving others the pill it refused to administer on itself. Lagos DPA also recalled the ruling party’s endorsement of open-secret voting for national elections when it fought against employing the method in Lagos council polls.

“AC trades in unparalleled hypocrisy,” DPA said. “And this latest directive to its political appointees should be seen in that light. It must be condemned by all and sundry. It remains curious why they know the right thing to do, demand it of others and yet proceed to do just the opposite themselves.”

DPA asked the government to rescind the directive as it stood against public interest, adding that it also attempted to cast a pall on government business which was public business and ought to be done transparently and openly.

In the words of the party: “How will the Press live up to its democratic responsibilities as enshrined in Section 22 of the Constitution, which states: ‘The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people’?”

Saying that the government must retrace its steps, DPA said gagging public office holders flowed against the grain of the trend worldwide of openness in government business, and warned, “Where information fails to flow, rumour and misinformation fill the gap.”

Director of Publicity, Lagos DPA

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