‘N7bn COVID-19 centre’: Kogi commissioner testifies against blogger in Bayelsa court’

Kingsley Fanwo, commissioner for information in Kogi state, has described a publication of a fallen N7 billion COVID-19 isolation centre in the state as false and embarrassing.

While testifying at the commencement of the trial of Saint Meinpamo, an online publisher, at a federal high court on Thursday in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state capital, Fanwo said the story was not verified before it was published.

The commissioner told the court that the publication generated ill will, unnecessary anxiety, public incitement, and needless hate in the state.

“I discovered a publication on May 2, 2020, crediting a news story to the Governor of Kogi State saying he built a fallen Covid-19 Isolation Centre for 7 billion naira,” Fanwo said.

“To us, the report was not only false, but a deliberate incitement against the Government and a big embarrassment to the Government and people of Kogi State and myself as the Chief Information Officer of the Government.

“By the publication, the defendant caused ill will towards the State Government and public tension. It portrayed our Government as being corrupt, insensitive and irresponsible. And he never verified the authenticity of the report before going to press to discredit the State Government with the false information.

“The fallen tent wasn’t even meant for COVID-19 cases. It was built for the isolation of Lassa Fever patients and it cost the Government less than 2 million naira.

“As a journalist myself, I am abundantly aware that our profession has ethics. The publisher betrayed the ethical standard of our profession by failing to verify the information before publication.”

The state also rejected out-of-court settlement, saying the case is expected to serve as a standard for other journalists who violate ethics and publish falsehood.

“We are stating our case. He will state his own. I won’t say anything here that might jeopardise justice and fairness. It is up to the court to determine who was right and who was wrong,” Fanwo said.

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