By Archibong Jeremiah, House Of Assembly Correspondent
The Speaker, Cross River State House of Assembly, Hon. John Gaul Lebo has promised that, on resumption from the ongoing recess, the House will set up a fact finding committee to look into the circumstances sorrounding the 2.4Billion Naira loan which the state government guaranteed for the operators of EbonyLife TV to build a Calabar Media City.
He also revealed that the State House of Assembly has already initiated a process to create a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for Cross River State New Media Company Limited which is supposed to be like a warehouse that can source for and provide funds, scholarship, training and opportunities for new media practitioners in the state.
The Speaker disclosed these in his office recently when he played host to members of the Association of Cross River Online Journalists, ACROJ who were on a courtesy visit to intimate members of the House of Assembly of the activities of the Union.
The Speaker while responding to a bouquet of demands made by the association, directed the House Committee on Information and Technology to begin the process of an enquiry into the state of the facility.
“For the issue of the Calabar Media City I know that the Calabar Media City is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) of the state government and I know there was a provision in respect to the media city project but that again, the Chairman House Committee on Information, Communication and Technology will look into it appropriately. The House has an opportunity that is guaranteed under the Constitution, to consider public complaints, arbitration, investigation of even criminal matters if the matter gets to that point.
“I think Section 128 of the Constitution as amended has dealt with that issue that even the House of Assembly now has quasi powers of the judiciary. We can summon and ask the Commissioner of Police to arrest and produce anybody that is needed for an investigation on the floor and order for his detention. We will ensure that we look at this matter and try to create an inter face and make it creative enough. First, let it be a fact finding committee to find out whether there are areas government can intervene or somebody has done something wrong or whether the guarantee that the money will be properly used was not properly used”.
While extolling the role of online journalism in the state and ACROJ, he said, “I believe that the new media which is what ACROJ is all about is like a catalyst nobody can avoid, it’s like a conveyor belt between the present and the future and I think that government can no longer run away from the fact that there are certain basic ideas that will drive the future of governance outside of government.
“I agree that it is quite timely that we take a resolution urging the relevant agencies including the government of Cross River State and companies doing business in Cross River State to support the activities of ACROJ”.
He further mandated the Committee on Information to raise the issue for debate on the floor of plenary on resumption from recess. “I like you to raise very arguable debate issues for our colleagues to deliberate on the floor. Already the government is thinking of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for Cross River State New Media Company Limited which is supposed to be like a warehouse that can source for and provide funds, scholarship, training and opportunities for new media practitioners in the state and I also know that we are currently working on a bill to provide for a solution architecture which is a private member bill being worked on by the leadership of the House”.
He urged the online journalists to maintain the high standards they have set for themselves and continue to strive to ensure professionalism in the discharge of their duties with the interest of Cross River state as the utmost guiding factor.
Earlier, the Chairman of ACROJ, Mr. Iwara Iwara lauded the House of Assembly for breaking the tradition and deciding to open the House to the press. “We want to thank this honorable House for their courage to open the House to a critical press, this decision ultimately, will be what will define your tenure as members of this parliament, because during and after your tenures, we are the ones that will still tell the story.”
He enjoined the 8th Assembly to see the investigation of the Calabar Media City loan as a challenge and not let Cross Riverians down.
“For the uninitiated, a media city is a large, planned, highly developed urban area designated specifically to concentrate media and creative industry. By concentrating these activities in a clearly defined area, the city ideally acts as a hub that creates a knowledge led buzz with the capacity to develop and foster creative industry activity.
“Painfully, after the initial buzz that was stirred around the project, with very open eyes, ACROJ cannot point to where the Calabar Media City is; that is a challenge for the 8th Assembly.”
He outlined the immediate plans of the Union to members of the House and appealed to them to consider legislations that will give legal teeth to some of the plans.
“Respectfully, we want to inform this Honorable Assembly of the immediate plans by ACROJ to begin an Institute of Online Journalism in the state, which will be affiliated to the Mass Communication Department of the Cross River University of Technology, CRUTECH. The idea is that, if we do this, we are consciously building futuristic capacity for the New Media sector as well as the state.
“This Honorable Assembly should also consider an enabling law that will provide a grant or subvention to empower registered and existing Cross River dedicated online news platforms, struggling to tell the Cross River narrative”.
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