Connect with us

Opinion

FULL TEXT of Maryam Uwais’ Reply to the Leadership of National Assembly

Published

on

 

 

PRESS STATEMENT

 

 

LAWAN, GBAJABIAMILA GOT IT WRONG

 

 

My attention has been drawn to the online report of the Nation newspaper of 7th April 2020, with the above caption. Indeed, several other online publications carried similar stories, alleging that the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIPs), as supervised under the Office of the Vice President, were a ‘scam’. Given the gravity and implications of the narrative conveyed, as well as the caliber of persons involved, it has become necessary to clarify the issues in the public domain.

 

1.That the National Social Investment Programme has gulped over N2 trillion since 2016, when the fund was created. UNTRUE

  1. a) Although the total appropriation by the National Assembly (NASS) from inception, for the 4 NSIPs, is N1.7 trillion, the actual funds released for the NSIPs between January 2016 and October 2019 (when the NSIPs were handed over to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development), amounted to N619.1 billion, constituting 36.4% of the total appropriation from the NASS.

 

  1. b) The monies released for the N-SIPs can be further broken down into  14.03% (2016); 35% in 2017; 43.5% in 2018 and 57.8% (as at Sept 2019) of the N500b in 2016 and N400b appropriated for the subsequent years. It should be noted that for 2017 to 2020, the sum of N100b was appropriated specifically for the National Housing Fund hosted by the Federal Ministry of Finance. These releases covered operational activities and payments to 13,363,680 beneficiaries across all the 4 NSIPs, all of whom can all be verified either through their BVN numbers or their unique numbers generated by the National Social Register, those identities having been generated for the poorest of the poor who do not own bank accounts for sundry reasons.

 

  1. c) As at September 2019, the funds had been expended as follows, on the: Job Creation programme (549,500 N-Power graduates and non-graduates and 7 Technology Hubs); National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (in 33 States, 9,963,762 pupils to 107,862 cooks in 54,952 primary schools); the National Cash Transfer Programme (including the development of the National Social Register by the National Social Safety Net Coordination Office) 1,491,296 poor and vulnerable households comprising 6,056,872 individuals in 33 States and 620,947 cash transfer beneficiaries; and the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (managed by the Bank of Industry); a total of 2,279,380 TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni beneficiaries.

 

2.That as part of the conditions for poor and vulnerable beneficiaries to be engaged, they are made to apply online, through the internet and they require a BVN for payment. UNTRUE

 

a)The National Cash Transfer Programme derives all the cash transfer beneficiaries from a National Social Register (NSR), comprising State Social Registers that are developed and hosted by the State Ministries of Panning of each State. The process for objective identification of poor and vulnerable households is as provided in the Financing Agreement (F.A) signed between Nigeria and the World Bank, for which purpose the World Bank IDA Credit and the recovered funds from the Abacha family are being utlised. The process involves a poverty mapping of the LGAs in each State, community mobilization, targeting and identification supported by trained enumerators at State and LGA levels, after which each of the households identified by the communities is visited and data collated, which information includes fields such as the size of household, age, gender, persons with disability (if any), assets, vocation of head of household, educational qualifications (if any), dwelling house conditions, etc. Finally, all the data collated is subjected to a proxy means testing formula to determine those who merit the grants and the accompanying training. Even though each State hosts its own information, all of the data is hosted at the National level as the National Social Register. As at March 31st 2020, the NSR comprised 11,045,537 individuals from 2,644,495 households, collated from 35 States, 453 LGAs, 47,698 communities. Each and every beneficiary has a generated unique number and can be tracked.

 

  1. b) Furthermore, payment service providers have been selected in an open procurement process to pay the cash beneficiaries at their locations, as many of them reside in communities where there is a dearth of banking infrastructure. Even though the majority of beneficiaries are not financially literate, the National Social Investment Office (NSIO, then under the Office of the Vice President) commenced the pilot exercise of payment of beneficiaries in 6 States through microfinance banks in September 2019, with a 93% success rate. The exercise was preparatory to full digitization, especially with the impending cashless policy in March 2020.

 

  1. c) It is also pertinent to mention that the National Economic Summit Group, (working with Accenture and the Busara Centre for Behavioral Sciences) formed the Policy Intervention Unit for the NSIO. Furthermore, in addition to the World Bank’s strict auditing responsibilities, the African Network of Environmental and Economic Justice has provided over 700 monitors across all the LGAs where the NSIP beneficiaries exist. The link to the Report is to be downloaded at: https://aneej.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Mantra-Field-Report-final-compressed.pdf. Indeed, the ICPC, EFCC & the DSS were also invited to monitor the process to protect the beneficiaries, after they receive the benefits in the field.

 

  1. d) It is only in respect of the Job Creation programme that applications are made online. That particular programme was initiated for youth who consist of graduates and non-graduates, as with JAMB candidates who continue to apply for their own admission, online. Indeed, all the LGAs around the country currently have N-Power beneficiaries serving in sundry capacities. The utilization of the BVN for N-Power beneficiary payment is also as a means of identity (since the NIN number can be generated from the BVN) and to facilitate the tracking of payments and further ensure accountability.

 

 

  1. e) The identities of the cash transfer beneficiaries are protected by law (the FOI Act), as the consent of recipients of social grants is a pre-requisite, before disclosure. They can, however, be found and verified through the LGA community facilitators (CTFs) who have been trained to support them by weekly visits to the wards. The names, wards, LGAs, States and phone numbers of the CTFs can be found at http://n-sip.gov.ng/resource-data/, as the data collation continues to grow around the country.

 

3.The Leadership of the Senate also stated that the NSIP information was not accessible to the National Assembly.  *UNTRUE*

 

  1. a) It is, however, on record that all invitations to public hearings and meeting by the NASS were honoured by the myself (as the supervisor of the NSIPs) and the cluster teams, while documents relating to the structure, activities and progress of the NSIPs were routinely shared with them, over the period that the NSIO supervised the NSIPs under the auspices of the Office of the Vice President (OVP). Furthermore, the monthly reports of 3,000 N-Power monitors, spread across the 774 LGAs, are available to both Poverty Alleviation Committees of the NASS.

 

  1. b) It should also be noted that the accounting and procurement aspects of the NSIPs were handled by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning on behalf of the NSIO, and not the OVP. All requests for information related thereto were responded to, by that Ministry.

 

4.It was further asserted, apparently, that because the beneficiaries are not known personally to the NASS members, the National Social Register is a ‘scam’ and needs to be reformed through a process that is ‘more inclusive’ of the NASS. REGRETTABLE & DANGEROUS

 

  1. a) The NSR comprises persons selected by the communities directly, within the constituencies of each of the NASS members. No person has been imported from one community to the other. They have been identified as very poor by the communities in which they reside and may not necessarily be known by the lawmakers. Verification of their identity and status is possible, as has been for all investigative journalists and monitors, through the CTFs.

 

  1. b) It should be noted that Nigeria has signed a Financing Agreement with the World Bank, in which the process of identification of beneficiaries was set out. Any departure from the process, which would place at risk the accessibility to the IDA Credit and the recovered funds from the Abacha family.

 

  1. c) The demand for the inclusion of candidates to the NSR from the NASS has been a recurring issue from the inception of the NSIPs. My role and singular focus has simply been to comply with the terms of Agreement and the MoU entered into by the Federal Government of Nigeria, as well as to establish an objective, efficient and transparent process for uplifting the poor out of poverty through structures and mechanisms that are credible and sustainable. I have consistently reminded both NASS Committee Chairmen on Poverty Alleviation that there is no social protection programme in the world in which politicians are responsible for selecting the beneficiaries of cash transfers. All successful social protection programmes extract their beneficiaries from an objective community platform, if only to ensure that the poorest of the poor are supported out of poverty in an inclusive community driven and timely manner. The data being collated in each household enables the accurate and scientific measurement and tracking, to assure of analysis and research towards resolving poverty. Since poverty knows no ethnicity, religion or political affiliation, the process must be insulated from influences that are likely to deviate from achieving the desired objective of alleviating abject poverty, rather than be used for patronage or as compensation for loyalty.

 

  1. d) The tripartite process for identification of cash transfer beneficiaries is in accordance with similar established best practice the world over, as the communities in which the poor reside know who is most in need. The community takes ownership and supports the process, if engaged in the identification of the needy. While not perfect, the process is as near authentic as is possible in the circumstances, as we continue to strive towards improvement. Building the State Social Registers has been a painstaking and continuous collaborative effort, with huge amount of funds expended in striving to achieve the credibility that would be put to waste, if discarded as suggested. Reform is certainly welcome, but not the ‘reform’ that would introduce influence and partisanship into the NSR, thereby making a mockery of the critical data so far collated around the country.

 

5.The NSIPs have been handed over to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs since October 2019, but it has become necessary to respond to the unfortunate allegations made at the National Assembly on the 7th of April 2020, which allegations were made in respect of certain aspects of the NSIPs from inception in November 2015 to September 2019. This response is necessary for the purpose of:

 

  1. i) Safeguarding the entitlements of the poorest of Nigerian citizens, whose benefits are likely to cease because they are not known or connected to NASS members or any other person of influence;

 

  1. ii) Protecting the integrity of the NSR, which development has been a painstaking process over the past 4 years, along with the huge investment and effort expended on data that is critical for development and poverty analysis; and

 

iii) Ensuring compliance with the World Bank Financing Agreement (FA) signed by Nigeria and the World Bank, as well as the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Nigeria, the Swiss Government and the World Bank, to facilitate the return of the funds recovered from the Abacha family.

 

Disregarding the process set out in the F.A would risk the suspension of the utilization of the IDA Credit and the recovered funds for the cash transfer beneficiaries. That balance which is currently over $500m, would be placed at risk. In the current Nigerian situation, we cannot afford to lose such a huge amount of resources that have been provided to support the poorest of the poor out of poverty.

 

6.This Statement is prepared to set the records straight on certain aspects of the processes, structure and activities of the NSIPs between November 2015 and September 2019 when I supervised the NSIO operations. Having handed over the NSIPs in October 2019, I assume no responsibility for the operations thereafter as the Ministry is well positioned to handle the NSIPs and take decisions thereupon.

 

Thank you.

 

Maryam Uwais MFR 

 

Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments

 

Continue Reading
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. gmail technical support number usa

    April 10, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    Similarly, Android application development provides mny choices for creating applications
    wwhich might be certain to produce a positive effect on your business.
    If you aren’t using Google Ad – Words with your business online strategy, you
    are literally losing thousxands of ppotential dollars a month.
    We’ve seen i – Phones and i also – Pads, all ranging from decrnt to
    superior quality devices. http://imailsupport.com/contact-gmail/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Opinion

Prospects of Electronic Voting System in Nigeria, Youth Power: the NBA Example

Published

on

 

 

 

 

What transpired in the just concluded Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) national elections, right from the commencement of campaigns, verification of lawyers for the election through to the voting proper and eventual announcement of the results formally by the Electoral Committee of the Nigeria Bar Association (ECNBA), was what I would like to call a revolution, and I will tell us why. Some commentators have referred to it as breaking jinx, given that it appears the NBA is perpetually jinxed to electing and/or having Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), as its President. But, I choose to call it a revolution. A paradigm shift. This was made possible by technology, which has greatly aided human endeavours amidst a debilitating and disruptive global pandemic, which has compelled hyperactive humanity to slow down. Secondly, the determination of the majority of the Lawyers to effect a change in their respected association.

 

In the legal profession in Nigeria, the highest Rank to be attained as a practicing lawyer is the rank of Advocate of Nigeria.It is the dream of every lawyer to attain such height including that of the present writer. It is equivalent to Queen’s Counsel (QC) or King’s Counsel (KC) in United Kingdom. When one listens to an SAN that worth the rank argue a case in Court, one would  appreciate the celebrity of that rank. Some are distinguished with a resonant voice and a clear diction. Some are statesmen, orators, philosophers and above all, mover of men in the highest echelons.

However, when it comes to the leadership of the Bar and the management of the welfare of the generality of lawyers in Nigeria, there has been an intermittent progress in those line of endeavours punctuated with complaints here and there. Over the years, lawyers, especially the young ones who felt and justifiably too in some respects, that they are not treated well have been complaining about the leadership of the highest Bar in Africa. In every election, candidates (who were majorly SANs) will come and promise that they were going to correct the anomaly. At a point, lawyers in Nigeria became very disenchanted for lack of true leadership.

When the 2020 election came on board, majority of the lawyers began to search for a messiah!  They felt that if they must succeed, they must take their destiny into their hands. After all, it was Kwame Nkrumah that once said that “Africans should be allowed to make their own mistakes”. So, it could be said that majority of lawyers for once have decided to chart their own cause. With those legitimate feelings, they began to search outside the rank of an SAN. These determined lawyers, entered into the field of work and walked the talk.

Having seen the body language and irrevocable resolve to change the narrative by electing a Non SAN, by young lawyers, some very senior lawyers were concerned and troubled by the looming revolution, which would inevitably break the hold of helms of affairs of the NBA over the years. Frightened by the imminent new order that is about to be inaugurated following the bent of the young lawyers, a very eminent and cerebral lawyer, who commands and wields enormous respect, which practicing lawyers aspire to possess, wrote a letter advising  fellow brother Silks on the need and imperative not to allow a Non Silk to lead the bar.One may say that the fears of some of the senior lawyers in that regard were not totally misplaced on the ground of the type of profession we practice as lawyers. It is a conserved system and it is said that seniority is an article of faith and no one could be more senior than a Learned Silk

 

Alas, it was too late because, one cannot stop an idea whose time has come.  While some of the Senior Lawyers were looking at the status quo, majority of Lawyers were looking at a new beginning and an NBA that works for all.While some of the Senior Lawyers were looking at the rank and status of an individual, majority of the lawyers were searching for a fellow that can deliver and the track record of what the person has done.

In this wilderness of search, an Oasis was found. The ebullient Olumide Akpata, esquire, presented himself as the agent of the desired change for the betterment  of  young lawyers in particular and the NBA in general. Mr. Akpata is a Partner in Templars, which is arguably one of the top five law firms in Nigeria.

This year’s NBA national elections is not just about the welfare of lawyers alone and engendering a sense of egalitarianism in the profession. It is much more than that. It is about redeeming the battered image of the profession, as well as restoring the confidence of the society to the noble profession.

The fears of some of the Senior Lawyers are very understandable. Young Lawyers constitute the highest number of lawyers in Nigeria and in election such as this, majority is strength!  It is a game of numbers. Happily for majority of the Lawyers, they have been gifted with a platform to showcase their preference.

 

Technology to the Rescue

In NBA election, every lawyer who has paid his National and Branch dues on or before the 31stof March is eligible to vote in the general election. Again, there is a system put in place that worked for the overall interest of every lawyer especially the young Lawyers in Nigeria. It is the electronic voting system (EVS). By this system, one can be in the comfort of his house and/or office and vote. One can vote from anywhere in so far as there is data and network. Technology is indeed a game changer, it has helped to truly democratise processes. The electronic voting system (EVS) deployed by ECNBA created the enabling environment that affords all verified lawyers to vote for candidates of their choice and their votes really counted.

There is a need to congratulate the ECNBA for making the process transparent unlike the previous years that were shrouded in suspected election malpractices. Although the election is not without some complaints but there is a huge improvement from the previous elections. At the beginning of this year’s election, nobody was sure of winning but every lawyer was looking up to the Electoral umpire to live up to expectation and to their credit,  the ECNBA did their best! It is however, further urged that the ECNBA should look at the areas that was a complaint and improve on in the subsequent elections.

 

The Lessons and Way Forward

The election has come and gone; but this NBA election should serve as a lesson to every Nigerian that a genuine change is possible in the electoral system. It is desirable that the National Assembly learns from the ECNBA on the need for amendment of the Electoral Act on the voting system in Nigeria. If the system of election works in Nigeria, people are really going to experience the real change. If assurances is given that votes will count, people are really going to participate in elections in Nigeria. NBA’s election is a wakeup call for every Nigerian to call on the National Assembly for electoral reform. Improved and transparent elections in Nigeria, will aid in the emergence of competent leaders, who will help to inaugurate a trajectory of prosperity for our country. The National Assembly need to amend the Electoral Act to allow electronic voting system with a measured security to avoid manipulation, it  is more efficient and transparent, and reduces to the minimum the likelihood of manipulation and malpractices in the system.

This election is a litmus test to Mr. Akpata and the younger generation. It is a test on whether under this circumstance, it is possible for a new generation to take the tide of leadership and smoothen the rough edges of governance! It is a test on whether it is possible for the younger generation to make a meaningful contribution and progress towards nation building.  It is a test on whether the younger generation is capable of leading the Bar and indeed the larger society.

As 2023 approaches, it is expected that this NBA election would be a blue print for national elections in Nigeria.  It is possible that young people are changing the narratives.  It is not surprising that the change began from the learned profession! All over the world, lawyers are always in the forefront of societal emancipation. I therefore call on younger generation to take election participation very serious and avoid being an instrument for election malpractices but go into the mainstream politics and effect the desired change.

To Mr. Apkata, I plead in the name of anything and/or everything very dear to you, do not disappoint Nigerian Lawyers. Do not disappoint the younger  generation. Do not be like the ones in Nigerian politics who have made impossible for the younger generations to be entrusted with power of leadership. I believe you will not. As a person who sharein your vision and aspirations for the NBA, I know you will not.

I heartily congratulate you.

 

Kelechi Chukwu writes from Ikoyi, Lagos

Kelemayon@gmail.com

08064032976.

Continue Reading

Opinion

Mgt Crisis: National Assembly, Now a Lawless Parliament?

Published

on

 

 

So a lawmaking body can break its own laws and flagrantly disregard its own resolutions and there are problems or consequences because there is no one to oversight it!

On June 10, 2020 the Spokesman of the House of Representatives, Hon Benjamin Kalu in a statement commemorating one year of the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly announced that the Green Chamber alone had 853 bills at various stages of the legislative Process.

In the Senate, over 300 bills are also said to be at various legislative stages.

Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are traditionally plenary days at the National Assembly. On each of these days both chambers record at least 20 “Motions of Urgent Public Importance,” these motions range  from those bordering on serious social issues to the very mundane one calling on the government to replace leaking roofs in worship centres.

The Senate or the House usually end debate on such motions with resolutions “urging”, “compelling,” “appealing,” or “mandating,” various federal government agencies or private organisations or individuals concerned to implement the resolution of the National Assembly.

However, the leadership of the National Assembly and indeed members of the assemblies  past and present believe that the parliament’s biggest challenge as an independent arm of the government remains the lack of implementation of the various resolutions of the Nigeria’s apex parliament by agencies of the government and organisations concerned.

The National Assembly today is in the eye of the storm by enmeshing itself in the same conundrum it had several times accused other arms of the government and private organisations of.

Since the inception of the 9th Assembly in June 2019, there has been series of schemes centred primarily on how to “takeover” the bureaucracy of the National Assembly.

The 8th National Assembly after series of failed attempts finally approved a new condition of service aimed at helping the legislative arm of the Tripod of the Nigerian government to get established as an institution with a “memory” that can serve as touch on its path to growth. The action of the 8th Assembly was taken bearing in mind that the legislature has remained the “sick man” of the tripod primarily because of the various military interregnums that had combined to stunt its growth over the years.

The revised condition which passed through the constitutionally required processes in the National Assembly during the 8th session was in the words of the leadership of the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) “is a product of longtime struggle by the parliamentary staff Association of Nigeria (National Assembly Chapter), …a struggle which started with the advent of democracy in Nigeria in 1999.” The Revised Condition of Service came into operation on May 21st, 2019. It is based on this revised condition of service that the current crisis surrounding the office of the Clerk to the National Assembly has been anchored by the members of the National Assembly Service Commission.

The 9th National Assembly is fast becoming a lawless parliament as events of the last few days indicates clearly that it cannot even obey its own laws and resolutions.

The National Assembly Service Act of 2014 was enacted by the National Assembly and it clearly stipulates the procedures for the appointment and removal of key members of the National Assembly Management staff, especially the Clerk.

However, in a flagrant disregard for its own resolution as carried out by the 8th Assembly and section 10 of the NASC Act 2014, which provides that:

“A person holding the office of the Clerk to the National Assembly shall only be removed by the Commission acting on an address supported by a simple majority of each House of the National Assembly praying that he be removed for inability to discharge his functions due to infirmity of the mind, body, any other cause or for misconduct.

“Except by resolution of each House of the National Assembly, no person shall act in the office of the Clerk to the National Assembly for a period exceeding 6 months;”

The 9th Assembly leadership in cahoots with the hand-picked members of the National Assembly Service Commission on Friday July 17, 2020 announced the removal of the Clerk to the Assembly appointing in his place an Acting Clerk.

This singular action of the NASC and its sponsors portends the greatest danger to the institution of the National Assembly.

It is to be noted that the imbroglio generated by the entire episode leading to this unfortunate action of the NASC, it should never be viewed from the personalities involved, rather we should look at it from a point of  “how does this action impact the institution of the National Assembly?”

Like mentioned earlier in this article,  for the National Assembly which thrives on lawmaking to be disobeying its own laws and resolution with reckless abandon, how then can it expect other arms of government or even private organisations to obey its resolutions and laws?

It is fast becoming a norm for heads of government agencies to walk out on the National Assembly, just recently the Minister of State for Labour and productivity , Mr. Festus Keyamo took the two chambers of the National Assembly to the cleaners  in the premises of the Assembly.

With all the grandstanding of the President of the Senate in a reconvened meeting of the Joint Committee on Labour and Employment, President Muhammadu Buhari went ahead to direct Mr. Keyamo to go ahead and coordinate the implementation of the government’s programme to temporarily employ 774,000 Nigerians, this is in total disregard to the position of the National Assembly as announced by President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly, Sen. Ahmad Lawan.

Similarly, the ad hoc Committee of the House of Representatives on Thursday July 16, 2020 “ordered” the arrest of Prof. Daniel Pondei, the Managing Director of the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission over his refusal to testify in the dramatized ongoing “investigation” on the Commission.

In an uncanny twist of issues, the same Committee on Friday July 17, 2020 again passed another resolution mandating Prof. Pondei to appear before it on Monday July, 2020 without even vacating the earlier arrest order slammed on the MD.

All these point to a parliament that is fast becoming lawless, a parliament in total confusion, this notwithstanding the opprobrious image the 9th National Assembly parades as a “rubber stamp” parliament.

It is indeed very imperative for all people of good conscience who mean well for the growth of democracy to speak up and salvage Nigeria’s fulcrum of rule of law in order to save it from self-destruct.

A National Assembly that cannot obey its own rule will definitely lack the moral high ground to extract obedience of its resolutions and laws from the other arms of the government.

Nigeria’s quest for the entrenchment of the rule of law has never been this threatened, the members of the NASC must be made to realize that their position is a pivotal one in the mainstreaming of democratic ethos in Nigeria. The NASC must necessarily work to insulate the National Assembly bureaucracy from the interferences of external factors and politicians whose sole interest is usually selfish and the “now.”

 

 

Continue Reading

Opinion

Putting the Online Media on Trial in Nigeria, Urgent Need for Self Introspection

Published

on

 

 

“The media has the capacity to shape the narrative, but what it does not know is that that capacity is dwindling.

“Its fast dwindling because more and more Nigerians are beginning to say, “wait a minute these people often don’t tell the truth.”  “This people often don’t investigate.” The media is losing credibility.

“Gone are those days when you pick up the paper and what you read you know is gospel truth.”

Those were the words of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila while engaging with journalists that cover the activities of the House of Representatives on July 2nd, 2020.

With the coming of the internet and its democratization of the media practice whereby a new brand of journalism has emerged, the idea of “fake news” also crept in too. With the internet at the finger tip of people everywhere in the world citizen journalism was born. Everyone with a phone can practically report events (news). Today every news medium now has the “eye witness” segment where citizens who may not be professionally trained journalists generate content for media houses by recording and sending such events to the media outlet for publishing.

Indeed, there is no sphere of human endeavour that has been impacted by the advent of the internet like the media sector.

However, even with the plethora of “news” activities in the internet space, online news media remain distinct from “citizen journalists” and “citizen journalism” or “bloggers.” The difference here lies in the fact that online news platforms or online newspapers actually practice journalism according to the established rules and ethics of journalism which basically stands on the mantra that says “when in doubt, leave out.”

As a practicing online journalist and a member of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) it saddens me that we (online journalists) are rather becoming our own biggest enemies. It is now a common thing for people both in public office and private individuals to constantly use such comments like “I read it in the social media,” “it was all over social media,” “you cannot rely on social media account” and many such comments which primarily aim to belittle the source or make it look like since it was not delivered on print or television therefore the “credibility” of the news is in doubt!

It becomes even more painful when practitioners of online newspapers play into the hands of those whose sole aim is to discredit the new media by peddling lies and conjectures in the name of “exclusive” news items and reports.

For example, Sahara Reporters is one of the very first online newspapers in Nigeria, though published from the United States of America, nearly 100% of its news content come from Nigeria or concerns Nigeria.

However, of late Sahara Reporters has consistently put those of us in the online newspaper business at risk of serious public distrust.

Just last week (July 7, 2020), the newspaper reported that 50 members of the House of Representatives had tested positive to the dreaded coronavirus prompting the the House to adjourn for a week.

This particular report which has since been found to be false triggered series of unpleasant consequences for everyone working in the complex as even their families became alarmed and jittery. The House through its spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu in a press statement refuted the Sahara Reporters claim, but even then the damage had been done.

There has been series of outcry by people and organisations that had been “victimized” by this news medium. One of the outstanding cases was documented on pages 19 and 20 of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s recent book: Fighting Corruption is Dangerous

In her account, Okonjo-Iweala, two time Nigeria’s former Finance Minister wrote, “Friends and family alerted me  to a spate of articles that had began to appear  in a Nigerian online news outlet, Sahara Reporters, that were attacking me  and the notion of my return to government as Finance Minister.

“…One night I received a call on a private phone line that I had reserved for use only by my family. When I picked up the phone expecting a family member, a voice said  this was Omoyele Sowore of Sahara Reporters and he had some questions  for me to answer. I was outraged… shortly after, a tape of our conversation appeared on the internet. Not only had this man violated all rules of decent behavior, but he had gone beyond to do something as unethical as taping our conversation without my knowledge or permission.             I did think this was a news medium worthy of any attention.”

As journalist practicing in an online news outlet, I am deeply worried that the tactics and practices of some of our colleagues in the online media space may eventually discredit us all to a point that we may become a butt of joke, even when online journalism remains the future of journalism in Nigeria, just like in other places in the world.

The era of fake news, distortion of facts and subjective presentation of information by some media outlet is becoming worrisome. It is more devastating when as an established media organization descends so law as to dwell in what many observers and practitioners alike call “junk journalism.”

We have credible online newspapers like Premium Times, The Cable, Legit NG, Pulse, eparliament, Orderpaper Starnews, Daily Post, Daily Nigerian and many more that have distinguished themselves as very credible news sources, yet the actions some very few online news outlets continue tar every one with a brush of ignominy

It has therefore, become imperative to call on stakeholders in the online Media Sector,  media regulatory agencies, media rights based organizations, including the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Nigerians Guild of Editors, Nigerian Press Council, Media Right Concerns, International Press Council among other stakeholders to speak out against these unethical practices to nip in the bud this ominous signs.

 

 

Continue Reading

Trending