In the aftermath of the recent brazen bomb attack on police headquarters, panic still grips many government buildings in Abuja as journalists on routine check on the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were barred on Friday from entering the compounds of the commission.
State Security Service (SSS) Personnel and other supplementary security operatives attached to the commission told our reporter that they were under strict instruction to bar visitors-journalists inclusive-from gaining access into the premises of the commission.
The move is not unconnected with the terrorist attack on Nigeria police headquarters. At 10:55 AM on Thursday a powerful bomb tore through the parking lot of the police headquarters in, lighting cars on fire and killing scores
“I know you very well as journalists covering INEC, but there is nothing for you to cover here today, for you to enter, you must call the person you want to see and let him talk to us, unless that is done you will not enter because that is the instruction” a machine gun toting SSS operative told newsmen following an altercation that ensued at the commission’s gate when some reporters were prevented from entry.
Phone calls to the Director of Public Affairs, Emmanuel Umenger, to call the security details to order only stopped at apologies as the operatives stuck to their earlier stance that no newsman will enter the premises.
Journalist have severally threatened to boycott the activities of the commission in protest to perceived shoddy treatment meted out to them in the coverage of Nigeria’s electoral body.
Similarly, accredited members of the press corp detailed to cover INEC have been at loggerhead with the commission on its refusal to issue identity cards to duly verified journalist as it is typical with many strategic government agencies and parastatals. “I wonder why it is difficult for INEC to issue us common identity cards as journalists covering them, if you go to other offices and ministries, even the presidential villa, the National Assembly, the judiciary and the Armed Forces have given such identity cards to the journalists covering them.
“I also remember that they have collected our passport photographs for the past two years and yet they have refused to process it, tomorrow you will hear it is the secretary or another person holding it, it is really unfortunate” A livid journalist protested.
In similar recent circumstances, but for the intervention of INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of Information and Publicity, Prince Adedeji Soyebi, journalist were barred from reporting an early morning fire incident that razed part of the INEC Chairman’s Professor Attahiru Jega office three weeks ago , typically overzealous security details refused journalists access to the premises.