By Waliu Adeyeri
The controversial Media Bill on the floor of the Federal House of Representatives is being sponsored by a Member of the House of Rep, Olusegun Odebunmi.
Who is the Sponsor?
Olusegun Odebunmi the sponsor of the bill is an All Progressives Congress (APC) representative representing Ogo Oluwa/Surulere Federal constituency, Oyo State.
He is popularly known as Bunvic. He is an alumnus of the Federal Polytechnic, Ede, Osun State where he studied Secretarial Administration. He proceeded to the University of Ekiti where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Education.
Odebunmi is currently the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values.
According to Vanguard, Odebunmi has no background in Media and journalism.
The Premise of the Bill
The Bill is titled: “A Bill for an Act to Amend the Nigerian Press Council Act. CAP N128, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1992 to Remove Bottlenecks Affecting its Performance and make the Council in Tune with the Current Realities in Regulating Press and for Related Matters.”
According to the sponsor of the bill, the premise of the bill is to establish a board for the media council which shall consist of one representative each from the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), Federal Ministry of Information, and 2 persons from the general public.
The board shall serve as advisory to the council.
Also, the chairman of the council shall be appointed by the President of the country on the recommendation of the Ministry of Information.
The amendment bill also gives the President the authority to appoint the 15 members of the council also on the recommendation of the Minister and after an election has been done by the union.
In the same vein, the duties of the council shall be to regulate the press media, ensure truthful and genuine information is published on their platforms.
The council with the approval of the Minister of Information shall approve penalties and fines for violators of the code.
The council with the approval of the Minister m will also be responsible for the acceptance, processing and consideration of applications for the establishment, ownership and operation of print media and other related media houses.
On the Code of Conduct:
The bill reads:
(1) The Council shall establish a National Press and Ethical Code of conduct for media houses and media practitioners, which shall come to effect and be disseminated after approval by the Minister;
(2) The Council shall cause to be established in the Nigeria Press Council Journal, the Code of Professional and Ethical Code of Conduct as approved under section (1) of this section which shall be binding on every media Houses, journalists and media practitioners in Nigeria.
6. Section 12 of the Principal Act is amended by substituting the existing section 12 for a new section 12 to read as follows:
12. Power of the Executive Secretary to Issue Summons, etc. The executive secretary shall have power to issue on behalf of the Council all summons and appoint such number of interpreters as may be required under this Act, either before or during the inquiry until the final determination.
7. Section 16 of the principal Act is amended changing the word “Council” to the word “Executive Secretary” in subsection 1(c) and also substitute the existing subsection 2 for a new subsection 2 to read as follows:
(c) by anything done against the -journalist that is capable of limiting the preservation of the freedom of the Press guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), may make a complaint in respect thereof, in writing, addressed to the executive
What the Media and Activists are Saying
On Monday, July 22, 2021, NUJ, Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria ran an advertorial “Information Blackout” on the front page of major newspapers.
According to the groups, Odebunmi’s the media, it is about society’s right to know, your right to be heard?
In his own words, human rights activists, Femi Falana said the bill is “anti-media.”
Sociol-economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) had called on the sponsor to withdraw the bill else will meet in the court should the bill get passed by the
“We call on Olusegun Odebunmi to immediately withdraw repressive anti media, anti social media, anti freedom of expression bills to amend NBC and NPC acts.
“Mr Odebunmi is a lawmaker and member of APC from Oyo state. We’ll see him in court if the bills are ever passed, SERAP said.”