The Comptroller-General of Customs, Abdullahi Dikko, yesterday opened up on his bitter experience with the media which began shortly after his appointment to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) most coveted position.
Dikko, who spoke about the media frenzy that followed his appointment to office, on day-two of the ongoing 2012 Comptroller-General's annual Conference in Katsina State, opened up after the President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors and Editor in chief of the Vanguard Newspaper, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, presented a paper entitled, "Customs - Media Partnership: Building Synergy Towards National Development".
He said: "If there is any public officer that has had more turbulence with the press it is me. Days after my appointment a story of certificate forgery about me was out and it was on for months. After that came another that I had murdered a journalist".
He explained that eventually it was found that the stories were emanating more from within rather than outside. "Today it is all history and people can see that Customs today is better off than in any other administration," he added.
The Customs boss who directed all Customs Area Controllers (AC's) to hold monthly media chats and copy him minutes of the meetings with effect from January, 2013, said the Service under his administration had nothing to hide. He noted that with proper and frequent briefings about their activities, the media would not embark on negative reporting, adding that it is when information are not made available to them that they write negative and damaging stories.
He cautioned officers to be careful of their actions and in-actions, saying it could result in negative reports about the organisation's corporate image.
He said, "sometime ago, there was a report that a Customs officer impregnated a woman and my picture was put in the story as if I was the one who impregnated the woman. Someone even called my wife and told her to buy the magazine and see the report thinking I was the one who impregnated the woman and it was not me. Please know that your activities reflect on the image of the Service," Dikko stressed.
While harping on the need for better information flow between Customs and the media, he said, "there are some Area Controllers that I call 10 times before they take my call let alone answering a journalist call. I respond to messages from journalists because I have nothing to hide, we have to tell the world our experience, where we were and where we are now, it is a thing of pride that we have grown revenue from N30 billion monthly to N100. If we sit and do nothing, the press must write.
"Even if it's a bad story tell them your own side, because if you keep mute they will say anything about us. Please Area Controllers help this Service to grow, except you have something to hide otherwise you have to tell the press your experience and they will help you tell the world."
Earlier in his presentation, Adefaye noted that if the NCS is to excel in its statutory responsibilities it certainly needs a trusting platform in the media that engenders a people's buy-in and not opposition to progressive accomplishments. He said a critical yet focused media, must be cultivated both as a management function because the Comptroller-General is the number one image maker of the organisation.
He also added that "everyone, officers and men, by their deeds impacts on the relationship and perception project," hence the need for caution.