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NUJ, SERAP, others condemn former Aviation minister’s assault of Daily Trust reporter

By Monsurudeen Olowoopejo

The Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ), Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Transparency International, and other organisations have condemned former minister of aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, alleged assault of a journalist, Eyo Charles, who asked him a question at a press conference in Calabar, Cross River State.

They described Fani-Kayode’s action against the journalist as the attribute of an intolerant and unstable person that does not want his activities closely scrutinised by the media and demanded that the ex-minister publicly apologise to the reporter.

NUJ, SERAP and others reaction came after a video emanated on Tuesday showing the former minister, who began a tour of some Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) states in July, visited Cross River recently, flew into a rage shortly after Eyo, a reporter with Daily Trust Media limited publisher of Daily Trust Newspaper, asked him a question on his visit.

Before the act, it was gathered that the minister while touring projects embarked upon by the state governor, Ben Ayade, showered encomium on the governor’s leadership style, and during the media briefing, the reporter asked if Fani-Kayode’s trips across the country were being sponsored.

This question, it was learnt, angered the ex-minister, who described the reporter as stupid and threatened him for daring to ask such a question.

Reacting over the minister’s statement,  SERAP, through a statement on its official social media handle, stressed that the media plays key role in any society developmnent and stressed that media function as a public watchdog.

The organisation stated that a reporter was at liberty to ask anyone particularly someone that has link to public offices question and that while asking question, the reporter must not be intimidated like what the former minister did.

“Journalistic freedom also covers possible recourse to a degree of exaggeration, or even provocation. The media has a vital role to play as “public watchdog” in imparting information of serious public concern and should not be inhibited or intimidated from playing that role”, the organisation added.

Also, NUJ, through a statement by its President, Chris Isiguzo, stated that it was the constitutional role of the media to monitor and keep a check on people as well as institutions in power.

NUJ emphasised that the ex-minister’s reaction was totally unacceptable, dishonourable and reprehensible and demand for retraction of his utterances which the union stated that Fani-Kayode’s action negate simple decorum and civility.

“For him to have embarked on assessment of projects in some states, even though we are yet to be told under what platform, he is doing so, it is proper for the media to hold him to account for his actions and decisions.

“We are more shocked that the same Fani-Kayode who had in recent times, used his social media handles to call leaders to account is at the same time attacking a Journalist for a simple demand for him to unmask those behind his nationwide tour. He had already visited six states. This is indeed, terribly disappointing”.

Earlier, the former minister said: “I am saying this on live TV. What type of stupid question is that? Bankrolling who? Do you know who you are talking to? I will not take any questions from this man,” he said.

“What type of insulting question is that? Which bankroll? To do what? Who can give me money for anything? Who do you think you are talking to? Go and report yourself to your publisher? Please don’t insult me here. I don’t want to take any questions from this man.

“I could see from your face before you got here, how stupid you are. Don’t ever talk to me like that. Who do you think you’re talking to. Bankroll who? You think I am one of those ones you… from who, when, how? You have a small mind, a very small mind. Don’t judge me by your own standards.

“I have been in politics since 1990… I have been locked up many times by this government. Suffered. I have been persecuted unlike most of the politicians you follow for a brown envelope. Don’t ever judge me by that standard. I spend I don’t take and I am not a poor man — I have never been and I will never be.

“Bankroll how? Don’t ever suggest that to me. I am sorry that was deeply insulting. I don’t often get annoyed in press conference. I have been doing this type of thing for so many years. Don’t you ever make that kind of suggestion to me. Bankroll who? A former minister, a lawyer? Don’t ever try that with me again o, please. You see me well, don’t ever. Try it with others, but with me, don’t! I will hit you hard and if anybody sent you to ask that question and gave you brown envelope, go and tell them that you got more than they bargained for to do it.

“Very rude. It is not the standard of gaining trust at all and I will report you to your publisher. Thank you. Somebody that has been on the road for how long, you are coming to talk about that. Very stupid.”

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