On July 3, 2020, Hon. Adedeji Stanley Olajide, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Ibadan Northwest/Southwest Federal Constituency, and a member of the ad hoc committee on COVID-19 in the House, barred journalists from covering a public hearing probing medical research in the fight against COVID-19 and other communicable diseases in Nigeria.
The Public Hearing was attended by the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire; Minister of State for Health, SenatorOlorunimbeMamora; the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), DrChikweIhekweazu and other heads of agencies and parastatals in the Ministry of Health.
The lawmaker allegedly took it upon himself to force journalists out of the Hearing Room following the observation of a member of the ad hoc committee conducting the hearing that the meeting room was becoming crowded and sought the directive of the chairman of the committee, Hon. HarunaMshelia (APC, Borno) to control people from entering into the hearing room.
Once the directive was granted, Hon. Olajideordered journalists to leave the hearing room and ordered the sergeant at arms to drag out any guest or journalists who dared to question his order. His actions led to a protest by the journalists at the venue, who walked out of the venue of the Public Hearing.
Explaining his actions, later on, Hon. Olajide maintained that it considerations for the safety of everyone attending the probe and the need to adhere with COVID-19 protocols of social distancing that were behind the plea to the few journalists, lawmakers’ aides and security details to leave the venue of the Public Hearing.
He contended that if the war against COVID-19 would be won, everyone must be ready to do the right thing and make sacrifices, noting that evicting few persons from the venue was a sacrifice they had to make for their safety and that of others seated within the hall.
The lawmaker explained that the public hearing was held inside one of the committee rooms of the House of Representatives and was attended by the Minister of Health, Minister of State for Health and the Director-General of the NCDC, a development, which he said, attracted too many people to the venue.
According to him, as a member of the ad hoc committee on COVID-19, it behoves on the committee to spread the message on COVID-19 prevention protocols and be seen to be doing everything right and setting good example for the populace at a period that governments at all levels had been preaching social distancing, wearing of face masks and so on.
He said this realisation was responsible for the decision to cut down on the number of people inside the venue, adding that contrary to some publications that he ‘bounced’ journalists from the venue in an unruly manner, he indeed, pleaded with few guests, including aides of lawmakers, orderlies and the few journalists sitting towards the back of the venue to excuse the gathering.
Olajide maintained that the action did not go down well with some journalists, whom he accused of going out to smear his personality, stressing that he would continue to hold journalists in high esteem, knowing the strategic importance of the profession to nation-building.