Few days after the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan denied claims that the leadership of the red chamber approved secret budget defence for various committees, clerk to the Senate committee on Special Duties, Kabir Yaba Umar, yesterday, chased journalists out of a budget defence session.
Last week, many committee chairmen ejected journalists from defence sessions, insisting that the exercise would be a private one.
Umar had on Friday morning sent an invitation to the Senate Press Corps to intimate them of the committee’s budget defence session with the North-East Development Commission and the National Commission for refugees, Migrants and IDPs. He said the two events would hold at the Senate Committee Room 211 by 2pm and 4pm respectively.
Journalists from different media organisations got to the venue on schedule and started taking notes when Umar walked up to the reporters and ordered them to leave in the full glare of the chairman, Senator Yusuf Yusuf, and members of the panel. Members of the committee included former Senate leader, Ali Ndume; a former governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima; and former governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Geidam and the senator representing Adamawa North, Elisha Abbo, among others.
Umar said he was working on the directive of the committee chairman to prevent journalists from media organisations except the NTA and the broadcasting unit of the National Assembly, from covering the event.
The clerk dared the reporters to write whatever they like because he had the right to determine who should be allowed into the budget defence session or otherwise.
He said: “I have already told your colleagues who had been here before you that you guys are not wanted here. I have the directive of the Chairman to do what I’m doing. “ Asked if he was aware that his action could be reported in the media, Umar said, “Go ahead, I don’t care what you write.”
The board and management of the NEDC and the refugee commission were expected to tell Nigerians how they hope to tackle the worsening humanitarian crises and aggravated malnutrition in the insurgency ravaged northeastern part of the country.
The Senate Standing Order 2015, as amended explains in chapter 8 (102) on rules of procedure for committees: “Each hearing conducted by each committee or sub-committee thereof shall be open to the public except when the Committee or sub-committee in open session and with a majority present, determines, by roll call shall vote that all or part of the reminder of that hearing on that day shall be closed to the public because disclosure of testimony, evidence or other matters to be considered would endanger national security or would violate any law or rule of the Senate.”