We Will Resist Breach To Freedom Of Press From Buhari’s Administration – NUJ | Independent Newspapers Limited
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We Will Resist Breach To Freedom Of Press From Buhari’s Administration – NUJ

Posted: Jun 5, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Deji Elumoye is the Chairman, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State chapter, and an Associate Editor, THISDAY Newspapers.  In this interview with JUDITH ESHEMITAN, he speaks on the union’s plans to address challenges of welfare package confronting practicing journalists in the state among other issues.

What are some of the challenges you have encountered so far as Chairman?

The challenges have been enormous especially when you look at the nature of the journalism profession, and its peculiarity. You are aware that some of the media houses don’t equip journalists the way we expect them to. You may want to ask the question, why establish the media house if you cannot provide the basic tools like; laptop, camera for the photo-journalist, midgets, and many others?

Aside that, we also have the challenge of wages paid to journalists. The wages paid to journalists are not the best. This is because we believed that journalists should be treated as professionals; we have professionals like lawyers, accountants and teachers, and they have their own special salary scheme. Even if they are in government or civil service, what they earn is quite different from that of an average civil servant. That is very worrisome and we have tried as much as possible to pursue it up to the level of the federal government. Already we have what is called the Minimal Salary Structure, and we are have before now been discussing with the ministries of establishment, information.

The draft of the structure is with these ministries, and when we are done with those areas, maybe when new ministers are appointed, we will continue discussions on this structure with them. It will be taken to the National Wages Commission, which will then determine that this is the Media Salary Structure. No media house should pay below this but you can pay in between, but not go below a specific amount.

Presently we have media houses that still pay paltry N30, 000 and N35,000 per month to journalists while their contemporaries in other profession, even the civil service earn about N60,000 to N80,000. The disparity is clear. We want to ensure that things like that are stopped in a matter of months.

Apart from government owned media houses, most privately owned media houses do not pay as at when due; they owe their journalists. They compel journalists to go to the field and get exclusive stories without paying them the basics, specifically the salaries.

There are instances where media houses owe their journalists for about 8 to 12 months. These media houses believe they are at liberty as to how they treat their staff, they realise money from the enterprise but do not cater for the journalists who generate the money.

We have taken up most of these media houses, and that is why we are engaging the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria and the Broadcasting Association of Nigeria, as regard the regular payment of salaries.

Also, based on the risky nature of the profession NUJ has provided insurance scheme for its members, but it cannot cover all its members. However, we have been able insure the lives of some of our members to a reasonable level. For instance, in Lagos we have about 2,000 journalists and we have been able to insure about 200 of our members. We are appealing to owners of media houses to have comprehensive life insurance scheme for journalists.


What excuses do media houses give for not paying living wages and good work environment to journalists?

They do not have any genuine reasons. We have had cause to shut a few of these media houses found wanting; I will not mention names. We had discussions and negotiations with them, but no improvements were made because despite the fact that they were making money, they did not get their priorities right so we had to shut them down.

Before the end of the year, we will still engage some of the media houses that fall into this category. We don’t mind if it will take us going on a warning strike that may lead to a full blown strike.


What have been achievements of Lagos NUJ?

I have been the Chairman for over three years. During this period we have been able to create an enabling environment for practicing journalists in Lagos. We also have been able to embark on a lot of welfare programmes for our members.

We organised quarterly checkups and tests conducted by medical practitioners on our members at the secretariat second Saturday of every month. All expenses by the union for about 200 to 250 beneficiaries. This is because of the nature of work we do and some of our employers don’t have medical provisions for journalists and other workers in their establishments. So, we felt we should take it up. In the pursuant of this health checks, some have been referred to hospitals because of the severity of their conditions.

We also organise what we call the Lagos NUJ Media Games. This is an annual event wherein journalists from all the media houses (chapel) partake in all the sporting activities: athletics, football, swimming, tennis, marathon, and what have you. It is usually a weeklong event. That year’s edition will take place from the end of August to the first week of September, 2015; and we have a titled sponsor.

My administration has set up an ethics and disciplinary committee to ensure that Lagos State journalists adhere strictly to the ethics of the profession. We also organised training and retraining programmes, because we realised some of our members who joined the job as graduates do not get retrained because some of the media houses fail to take up the responsibility for journalists on their payroll.

In the next few days some of our members will be travelling to the United States for a two weeks certificated course, courtesy of NUJ, Lagos.

Also, we have encouraged our members to be land and house owners. At the moment we have put up structure on our land we have at Mowe on the outskirts of Lagos. About 1,000 plots of land have been involved wherein duplexes will be built for our members. It is a mortgage scheme, we have an understanding with a multinational company, and the houses will be built within six months and one year to enable our members become home owners.

This programme has been on for about 10 years, but it is a continuous exercise. Before June 2016, all the houses would have been completed then we will make it public.

One of our major achievements is the relocation of the secretariat from Shomolu to its present location. It was here we discovered that check-up dues from members were not forthcoming because they were being owed by their employers. So we thought and deliberated on how to beef up the financial base of the council. So under my leadership we started building a self-financed a 2-storey guest house in Shomolu.

The guest house is about 70 percent completed. We used money we realized from bidding at the Lighthouse, that is the Jakande house on the Victoria Island, and we have spent over 70 million on the project. It is a 20-room complex and suite.