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A'Ibom NUJ: Deepening The Ideals Of Professionalism/Unionism In The Last One Year

T he current leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Akwa Ibom State Council, was instituted on Friday, August 2, 2019, immediately after the council's elections. Aware of the huge burden of providing a good direction to the Union, the State chairman, Comrade Amos Etuk, and his team hit the ground running with ideas that have changed the narrative of leadership in the NUJ. The first thing Etuk did was to organise a seminar for members of the State Executive Committee (SEC), in Eket, in September, 2019. This was followed by a threeday seminar on investigative reporting organized by the Next Edition Centre for Investigative Reporting in collaboration with the NUJ. There were also specialized training programmes for members outside the executive committee. For instance, selected journalists from the State attended a seminar organised by the Nigerian Press Council for the South South Zone in Benin City, Edo State, in December, 2019. All these were aimed at sharpening the skills of journalists in the State and make them stay on the path of professionalism. Members are regularly reminded to ensure that truth, objectivity, fairness and other timetested principles of journalism are observed at all times in their reports. Today, the issue of quacks parading themselves as journalists has been effectively curtailed with the use of the NUJ compendium in all activities of the Union.

The Special Duty Committee, which is one of the nine standing committees set up by the Union is empowered to monitor all events and look out for impostors. The compendium has also been submitted to different organizations for reference when they are in doubt about the identity of any 'journalist'. The nine standing committees are to assist the leadership in achieving its targets, among other things. The achievements of the Etukled NUJ will be more appreciated when viewed from the perspective of aggressive pursuit of journalists' welfare. A welfare policy was put in place by the immediate past administration, but implementation of the provisions of the document commenced the day the current leadership came on board. Much to the admiration of members of the Union, the welfare policy is implemented in a way that does not cast any doubt on its sustainability. So far, the Union has disbursed over N2million to 36 members under its welfare scheme. The current leadership has also scored another first by publishing a magazine; NUJ Standard, every quarter. The first edition of the magazine was presented to the public on Monday, March 10, 2020 The second edition will be unveiled on Monday, August 3, at the Press Centre, as part of activities marking the first anniversary of the Etuk-led executive. Applauding the NUJ for the quarterly magazine initiative, the Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo, said in a letter of commendation that the idea came at the right time and urged the Editorial Board to ensure that it (NUJ Standard) serves as a demonstration ground for the ideals of fairness and balanced reportage. In the last one year, the leadership has organized spiritual convocations to thank the Almighty God for His benevolence on the Union. They included worship sessions and thanksgiving services. The Union's last thanksgiving service, which was held on Sunday, January 19, 2020 at Qua Iboe Church, Ikot Akpan Anwa, Ika Local Government Area, was a huge success in all ramifications.

Similarly, the 2019 Press Week was adjudged the best in terms of organization and presentation. The State Congress of the Union has been held monthly since September, 2019, until COVID-19 arrived with its disruptive fangs, forcing governments to adopt safety measures to combat its spread since April. The congress was another engagement ground with interest groups, individuals and corporate organizations. At the zonal level, the State Council has registered its presence through active involvements in activities of the Union. Etuk, the State Secretary, Comrade Dominic Akpan, and the Zonal Secretary, Elder Bassey Eyoh, Ph.D, attended the Zone F meeting, in PortHarcourt, Rivers State last year. In February, 2020, the State Council hosted the Zonal meeting, where decisions that will have great impact on the Union were taken.

Regular interactions with past leaders and all organs of the Union have helped to settle many issues in the Union. In addition, the State Council organized the first- ever Christmas Concert in December, 2019 and NUJ Fitness Walk and Games in February. A reflection on the activities of the union in the last one year has revealed that the good governance principles woven around transparency, sincerity and engagements form the modus operandi of the Etuk-led NUJ. When the effect of COVID19 lockdown became unbearable, Etuk rose to the occasion. He liaised with the state government and got the Union's share of the palliatives for members. Besides, the State Council also played an active role in disseminating the right information to the public on COVID-19. It also went on a tour of the Isolation Centre located within the premises of Infectious Disease Hospital, Ikot Ekpene. A seminar was mounted at Ibom Specialist Hospital, Uyo, to train journalists on how to report the pandemic without creating fear in the minds of the people. So far, it has been a harvest of appreciable impact on the lives of journalists in Akwa Ibom by the Etuk-led NUJ in the last one year.

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