Speaker, of the House of Representatives,Hon Femi Gbajabiamila has said that all hope was not lost in finding the missing Vanguard Reporter, Comrade Tordue Salem.
He said he was in constant touch with the security agencies, encouraging them to deploy all their resources to realize the objective.
This came as the House pledged to always uphold the freedom of speech as one of the tenets of democracy.
It will be recalled that Salem got missing on October 13, 2021 in Abuja.
Gbajabiamila who spoke while declaring open a two-day capacity workshop for the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs jointly organized by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, NILDS and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung on Monday in Abuja said he saw the Press Corps in the parliament was part of the institution and should be concerned about their wellbeing.
According to him, “I do know that the Vanguard Correspondent in the House of Representatives, Tordue Salem who has been missing for some weeks now is still yet to be found.
“I have been in contact with the leadership of the Press Corps and the authority that is doing this investigation since this matter came to light. I want to encourage Security agencies not to relent in their effort to locate Tordue and bring him back to the House. I see the Press Corps as part of the institution and anything that torches one, torches the rest of us”.
The Speaker lauded the House Committee chaired by Hon. Ben Kalu representing Bende federal constituency of Abia for taking the task of correcting some negative impressions about the parliament.
According to him, “It goes to say that this committee plays an important role in the activities of the House as it is the intermediary between the House and the public. Your work goes a long way to shape perception of the House of Representatives and correct any misconception in the public sphere.
“You have a critical role in rephrasing the narrative of the public about the House of Representatives and in giving direction to the legislature and in propelling policies of government. That is why those of you who practice in the institution are referred to as fourth estate of the realm.
“The House of Representatives and indeed the National Assembly, like every legislature in the world is perhaps the most misunderstood institution. Some of the misunderstanding is unintentional.
“Some of the misunderstanding is sometimes political. Unfortunately, some of the misunderstanding
“It falls therefore on members of this committee to begin to educate the public to change the narrative because sometimes, we are not aware or are ignorant of unforseen consequences of what will happen when a small committee or an institution like the National Assembly is understood or misjudged.
“It has the potential of snowballing or having a larger and more dangerous effect on our democracy. That is why we look at the Committee from prism of your work which is strategic to the survival of democracy”, he said.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Benjamin Kalu said the media has decentralized.
He said that the House would continue to uphold the freedom of speech under the law.
According to him, “The press has been decentralized, with oftentimes destructive outcomes. But such is the price that we must pay for the beauty that is democracy and the exchange that we must uphold for freedom of speech- the inalienable right of every Nigerian.
“We have continued to engage with the Nigerian public through traditional and new media to clarify issues and ensure that every Nigerian can access firsthand
information on legislative activities. We have worked in lockstep with all the standing committees of the House ensuring that we are, at all times, abreast of their oversight
activities to enable us adequately represent and defend the overall interest of the House.
“We have also advanced programs, as well as an environment, that serves to
promote public engagement, education, awareness, and reorientation including oeriodic stakeholder roundtables; training, and capacity building for members of the press corps.
“While we must continue to hold the media accountable for an objective and balance reportage it is important to note that they face hazards in the line of duty and as such the parliament, especially the Committee which I oversee, will continue to see to their safety and improves remuneration for the profession.
“Only recently, Tordue Salem a reporter for Vanguard newspapers covering the House of Representatives went missing. The Media and Public Affairs Committee under the able Leadership of the Speaker of the House of Representatives Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila will not rest on its oars until our own is found.”
On his part, the Director-General of NILDS, Professor Abubarkar Sulieman encouraged the National Assembly to develop media and communication strategy to properly inform the people of their activities.