Nigeria: Experts Discuss Role of Nigerian Media in Ensuring Public Accountability

25 November 2021

<i>The experts spoke at a media dialogue and award ceremony hosted by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) in Abuja.</sub>

Journalists and media experts met Wednesday in Abuja to discuss the role of the media in ensuring public accountability in Nigeria.

The experts spoke at a media dialogue and award ceremony hosted by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) in Abuja.

In his opening remark, the ICIR Executive Director, Dayo Aiyetan, said the programme was necessary because "the media is not an island."

It operates in a corrupt environment, he said. "Though we have had some bad experiences, we have also had wonderful stories to tell since we started."

Mr Aiyetan lamented the difficult conditions journalists operate in to do their job. In their effort to expose corruption, he said, journalists face different forms of threats by government officials "who are using the institution of state to harm the media."

He added that government officials should see journalists as "complimenting their work rather than see us as competitors."

In his keynote speech titled "the political economy of press freedom in Africa's most populous country," Martin Onoja, the Managing Director and Editor-in-chief of the Guardian newspaper, said the role of the media as clearly spelt out in the constitution is "to monitor governance and hold public officers to account."

He said, "only good and independent journalism can deliver this tough job."

But, Mr Oloja said, good and independent journalism costs a lot of money to do. "You also need good capitalization to do investigative journalism."

"Ordinarily, good journalism should be one of democracy's safety valves. Without it, journalism can become sterile and barren," he said.

Mr Oloja added that: "all the good newspapers in the world have a good capitalization and their economy is robust."

But in Nigeria, "We always depend on the wicked and the criminals who have brought down the country to also have capitalization. Most of the proprietors do not have money on their own. They depend on the system we are monitoring and the people we are to hold to account. We depend on them too much for revenue," he told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview on the sideline of the event.

"We can't practice robust journalism here. We are doing public relations not journalism and it is only good journalism that can improve the governance system of a country to hold people to account and to monitor them until they do something in the interest of the larger society," he said.

Earlier in his remarks, Kole Shettima, the Country Director of MacArthur Foundation in Nigeria, spoke on the importance of independent journalism in any democratic country.

He said the overall goal of his organisation is to improve the quality of life. "And I am glad that the media is improving the lives of the citizens through accountability journalism."

Mr Shettima added that while it is important to support independent journalism through grants, it is equally pertinent that journalists have a business model. "That is, the media should develop independent sources of revenue rather than relying on government advertisements or donor partners."

In his submission, Edetaen Ojo, the Executive Director of Media Right Agenda, said that "unless the media contributes to sanitizing itself, it cannot begin to hold the government to account."

Parts of the challenges we face is that the media sector is rotten, he said, adding that "there is no nice way to say it."

Also, Abigail Ogwezzy, a lecturer at the University of Lagos, submitted that "if we don't understand why there should be accountability, we may not drive or push for it."

Ms Ogwezzy, a professor, noted that "accountability is at the core endearment of all human rights. And it has two main components: Addressing past grievances and correcting systematic failure to prevent future occurrence."

At the event, the <a target="_blank" href="https://ng.linkedin.com/in/musikilu-mojeed-25029644">PREMIUM TIMES' Editor-in-chief, Musikilu Mojeed,</a> said journalists in Nigeria "impoverished" their own companies because of their complicit behaviour.

Speaking on generating revenue for media organisations, Mr Mojeed said there are many instances where "the money that would've been used to advertise in a media company will be given to reporters and it passes just through individual pockets."

He conceded that the system is bad but journalists are also complicit.

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