By Victor Ahiuma-Young
NEWSPAPER Proprietorsâ€™ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Tuesday in Lagos, formally announced and presented the Chairman of the Council of Legal Education and retired Judge of the Federal Court of Appeal, Justice Moronkeji Onalaja, as the Chairman of its Office of the Ombudsman toÂ examine complaints of professional misconduct against journalists or their published work in a newspaper or magazine, whether in printed or electronic form.
Making the announcement at NPAN secretariat, President of NPAN, Chief Ajibola Ogunshola, explained that the Office of the Ombudsman was not a court, but an independent, voluntary mechanism to resolve complaints against journalists or publishing houses without going to court.
The establishment of the Office of the Ombudsman was the outcome of NPANâ€™s 2008Â Annual General Meeting (AGM) on November 13 last year, to handle the growing complaints by members of the public of ethical infractions by journalists.
According to him, in the discharge of its duties, it will notify all the parties involved of any complaints against them and call the attention of the relevant professional groups to the complaints as well and noted that a summary of the findings of the Office of the Ombudsman would be published in the newspapers and magazines of all NPAN members, including that of the newspaper or magazine against which a complaint has been made.
Ogunshola explained that the rulings on each complaint shall be the sole responsibility of the Ombudsman.
A complainant shall be required to waive his right to go to court having submitted to the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman, except where criminal liability is established prima facie.
He said: â€œComplaints and rulings will be strictly by correspondence. The reason is partly to keep costs down and also to ensure competent, quick and transparent processing of complaints against journalists and media organisations by the public. The Office of Ombudsman shall be financed by the NPAN. It started functioning from June 1, 2009.â€
Responding, Justice Onalaja who is also, a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced commended members of NPAN for finding him worthy of the Chairman of the office of Ombudsman and promised to discharge his duties accordingly.