By Chinedu Adonu
ENUGU – NATIONAL Vice President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, South East, Comrade Petrus Obi has announced plans of the union to set up a verification committee to check qualification of journalists practicing in the region.
He revealed that the plans to verify journalists was based on the decision of National Executive Council of the union during its last meeting held in Abuja. He noted that it was also in pursuant of the Article 3 of the NUJ constitution which stipulates a minimum qualification requirement of National Diploma in Mass Communication to practice.
Comrade Obi who was speaking during a courtesy visit to the Chief Medical Director of the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Abakaliki, Dr Emeka Ogah, said that the union was also working to streamline the activities of online news platforms to help reduce the menace of fake news and quark.
“Journalism will no longer be an all comers affair. The South East NUJ is about to set up a committee to verify the certificates of all practicing journalists in the South East. This is in line with the decision reached at the last NEC meeting of the the Union held in Abuja and supported by Article 3 of our constitution which states that one must possess at least, a National Diploma in Mass Communication to practice.
“If you don’t have it, we are going to show you the way out of the job. The screening and the verification is going to start with me as the Vice President. Whoever is a journalist who comes from the south East, no matter how highly placed will be subjected to this verification. The purpose is to make sure that we stopped an ugly situation where people are going around dupping others by claiming that they are journalists.
“Since we were elected, we have been seeking to streamline the activities of journalists especially as it concerns the new media. The coming of the internet and the social media has brought a situation where everybody has now become a journalist.
“What we are trying to do in the South East is to ensure that fake and quark is brushed aside. In that line, we have already started the process to register all online platforms so that at any given time, we will be able to publish and know those we feel are credible and registered with us.
“So that we can say that these are the people that you can deal with. So that when you err, you can be called to order or be sued to court. That is part of what we are doing,” he said.
He also pleaded with government to help alleviate the plight of journalists in the zone noting that the union through him has set up a welfare package which aims at taking care of the families of deceased journalists to reduce their suffering.
“We have set up a welfare package to help our colleagues. We have lost some of them even in Ebonyi here and when that happens it seems like their families have been extinguished. So we’ve set up a welfare scheme to help. We plead with government and public spirited individuals to help us in this regard.
“We are going to get a bank account which will not be manned by any individual. We will also set up a committee to see that whatever comes in will be given to these families.
“We want to congratulate you for your second term. We also want to say that you’ve done well in terms of rural outreach. The hospital is now the best centre for the treatment of Lasser fever in the country.
In his response, the Chief Medical Director, Federal Medical Centre Abakaliki, Dr Emeka Ogah commended the move by the union saying that such exercise was coming at the right time since some people have set out to blackmail and tarnish the image of individuals with the help of fake journalists who are only after money.
“I think you have started well because there are bad journalists in the country. They are out to make money. They are put to tarnish the image of people. They are out to do a lot of things but I think with the step you are taking, I think those people those people in government will aso support you to succeed.
“This is because when you succeed in doing this, the people at the helm of affairs will be protected. Nowadays people are so wicked. They go to somebody and say, write this and they will write. When you now write a counter, it’s not every one who read the first one will now read the counter. And fake news spreads like wild fire.
“It was just on Friday that we heard that Ogbonnaya Onu has been appointed SGF. It was everywhere when such a thing never happened. So keep it up. As much as we can, we are going to help you. And the certificate verification is everywhere now. Because it is the attitude of people that will make someone say, let me verify the qualification of this person, I don’t think he is behaving like one of us,” he said.