Nigeria: Information Minister Vows to Treat Media as Partner

Nigeria's Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, addressing the International Press Institute (IPI) in Abuja.
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Abuja — SPEECH BY THE HON MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, AT THE GALA NIGHT OF THE 67th IPI CONGRESS IN ABUJA

PROTOCOL

1. Permit me to formally welcome to Nigeria our media friends from around the world, under the auspices of the International Press Institute (IPI). May I also thank the IPI for the confidence reposed in Nigeria by giving us the hosting right for this 67th IPI World Congress. When we made a bid for the event, at the IPI World Congress in Doha, Qatar, in 2016, IPI did not for once doubt our ability and suitability. By granting us the right, you affirmed your belief in us, in our ability to host this all-important event in a safe and secure environment. Thank you.

3. Let me stress that this event is coming about two weeks after we also hosted the United Nations World Tourism Organization Commission for Africa Meeting in this same city. That event has been hailed as one of the best of its kind. I have no doubt that this Congress will achieve the same level of success, thanks to the hard work of the local organizing committee. More significantly, these events show that Nigeria is now safe and secure, for both citizens and non-citizens alike. We are delighted to host this confab, which marks the first time that IPI has held its flagship global Congress in West Africa.

4. The theme of this 67th IPI World Congress, which is “Why Good Journalism Matters,” is very important and couldn’t have come at a better time. Apart from alerting us to the indispensable role of the media in the society, it reminds us of the purpose of journalism which, according to authors Bill Kovach and Tom Rosentiel, in their book – THE ELEMENTS OF JOURNALISM – is to serve all citizens in a democratic society. Kovach and Rosentiel also said journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.

5. If we all agree about this obligation, then it behoves on the media to tell the truth, not just to power, but to the people, making it easier for them to get the facts in the right context, thus facilitating their decision-making process. But in an era of growing cases of fake news and disinformation, can we still say the media – whether traditional or new – is living true to this dictum? If the answer is no, what does this portend for the profession in particular and the society in general? I am sure this congress is examining the issue critically in the course of its deliberations.

6. In my opening comments at the 2016 IPI Congress in Doha, I said we as a government view the media as a partner. That remains true. I also said the media in Nigeria has nothing to fear from this Administration, and that – if anything – we as a government are the ones who have to fear the media. Also, that has not changed. We are proud that the Nigerian media is one ofthe most vibrant in the world. We are proud of the role that the Nigerian media has played in our long march to democratic governance. This administration will continue to provide the enabling environment for the journalist to function unmolested.

7. Let me state here without equivocating, that contrary to the report by the Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ), no journalist is in detention in Nigeria. Clement Abiri, who is being referred to as a journalist, is not one. He does not belong to any chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists. He was arrested for pipeline vandalism and crude theft, including militant activities in the Niger Delta.

8. This Administration campaign on three cardinal programmes: Fight Corruption, tackle insecurity and revamp the economy. We are earnestly delivering on all three. For example, when Mr. President was taking the oath of office in this same city on the 29th of May 2015, a territory three times the size of Lebanon, in the North-east of this country, was firmly in the hands of Boko Haram. Today, not an inch of our territory is under the control of Boko Haram. That is a fact. When Mr. President was taking the oath of office, Boko Haram retained the capacity to stroll into this city, at a time of its own choosing, to wreak havoc. Remember that the insurgents attacked the UN Complex, the police headquarters, motor parks, a newspaper office, etc right here in Abuja. That is now history. And that is a fact! Yes, cowardly suicide bombings still occur occasionally, such is the nature of a waning insurgency, what I will call the last kicks of a dying horse.

9. It is also a fact that corruption in Nigeria is fast becoming a taboo. It is no longer being celebrated. It has been driven under the table. That is the making of this Administration, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. Apart from prosecution of those who have looted the public treasury – recall that two former state governors were recently jailed for corruption – the Administration has also embarked on institutional reforms to curb corruption. The diligent implementation of the Treasury Singles Account (TSA) has plugged the loopholes being exploited to steal public funds. The Administration has established an Efficiency Unit to monitor its agencies and ensure all expenditures are necessary and represent the best possible value for money. Our Whistle-Blower Policy has yielded massive dividends: 13.8 billion Naira from tax evaders, as well as 7.8 billion Naira, 378 million dollars and 27,800 pounds in recoveries from public officials targeted by whistleblowers.

10. The Economy is back on the path of growth, after the recession of 2016-17. The indices are all looking up. The economy grew 1.95 per cent in Q1 2018; Foreign reserves are up from 25 billion dollars to around 48 billion dollars, the highest in five years; Inflation is down for the 16 consecutive months, from 18.7 per cent to about 11.6 per cent presently and Nigeria’s Stock Market ended 2017 as one of the best performing in the world, with returns of  about 40 per cent.

11. All that I have said are verifiable facts. and they must be reported as such, and in the right context. Doing that will be good journalism. Presenting the facts to the people will facilitate their decision-making process. And that will show that, indeed, good journalism matters!

12. Once again, I welcome all our friends in the IPI to Nigeria. Please enjoy taste, sights and sounds of Nigeria. And thank you for your kind attention.

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