By John Okeke
A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Baywood Foundation on Tuesday , donated food items and protective equipment to the Nigeria Union of Journalists, (NUJ) in Abuja.
The donation includes: 1000 bags of 10kg rice and 500 face masks from Baywood Foundation.
The Country Director of the foundation, Mr Chukwudi Ojielo, said that the gesture was in recognition of the fundamental role of the media in daily news reportage.
According to him, beyond the national body of the Union, plans are on to reach out to vulnerable communities across the six geo-political zones of the country.
Ojielo said that the foundation was not unmindful of the fact that journalists were providing essential services under the Coronavirus (COVID-19) regime.
In the same vein, National President, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr. Chris Isiguzo, who received the items donated by the foundation called on the federal government to immediately recognize journalists as front liners in the fight against COVID-19 by paying them hazard allowance and other benefits given to their counterparts in health and security sectors, without further delay.
He said: “I want to use this opportunity to reiterate the call we made earlier that it has become very imperative for government to do the needful by addressing the issue of poor remuneration as well as hazard allowance for journalists.”
Isiguzo noted that the pandemic which was initially considered a health emergency has fast assumed an economic emergency as it has attacked world economies.
“As a result, we have continued to ask government and good spirited individuals to extend whatsoever that is possible first to people in the front line because they also have families.
“When Nigeria got locked down, health personnel, the media and security agents were outside, working round the clock.”
NUJ President however stressed that journalists have remained worse hit by the pandemic as they neither get properly remunerated nor receive special packages from government such as the special hazard allowance and the new insurance policy, which over 5000 health workers and security agents receive.
“Recently, we had personal communication with President Muhammadu Buhari and we called for a bailout for the media because if nothing is done, you will just wake up one morning and discover that the private media organizations have shut down due to decline in patronage,” he stated.
Isiguzo insisted that asking for assistance from the government by way of bailout is not an indication that the media has sold its conscience.
He therefore commended Baywood Foundation for acknowledging the fact that journalists are equally in the frontline of the on-going efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic.