By Funmi Falobi
Nigerian media have been urged to serve as catalyst for nation building and anti-corruption watchdog in order to entrench transparency and accountability in governance.
Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, the Executive Secretary of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) stated this at a tweet-a-thon organized by the International Press Centre (IPC) with support of Public Affairs Section U.S Consulate General, Lagos held in Lagos.
Speaking on the theme entitled ‘The State of Transparency and Accountability in Nigeria: Issues for Media Digest and understanding’, Owasanoye who was represented by Mr. Jake Effoduh, the Programme Officer, PACAC, said that the media have a very vital role in assisting Nigeria to reposition itself as a country with a strong commitment to good governance by playing an important role of making public officers accountable to the Nigerian people.
“At this point where we are as a nation, we need the media to ceaselessly disseminate information about the developmental costs and evils of corruption in our society. We need the media to re-embrace its fundamental role, not only of performing checks and balances on the other three arms in the process of governance, but to also interpret the activities, programs and policies of government to the citizens,” he said.
According to him, transparency and accountability are fundamental pillars of any democratically elected government, noting that this is where the media comes in: as a catalyst for nation building and as an anti-corruption watchdog.
“I must say that the Nigerian Media, though limited in resources, have managed to keep up to its constitutional mandate quite remarkably. The media has reported corruption cases extensively, and as a result, today, the government is more accountable to its people. Also, citizens have gained insights from the continuous featuring of corruption stories, and the publication of government’s anti-corruption efforts. Notwithstanding these wins, there’s more to do”.
He declared: “55 Nigerians stole N1.4tr within seven years and this can tar 640km of roads, build 36 ultra modern hospitals, sponsor 4,000 children from primary school to tertiary institution and construct 2,000 housing units.”
He therefore urged the media not to rest on its oars but to ‘ceaselessly disseminate information about the developmental costs and evils of corruption in our society’.
In his address, IPC Director, Mr. Lanre Arogundade charged journalists to take advantage of the event and improve on robust engagement. “The objective of the media transparency watch project is to promote media and public dialogue on the imperative of transparency, accountability and anti corruption for good governance in Nigeria and as well as enrich the content of media reports on transparency issues among others.”
Contributing to the discourse, Deputy Editor, Vanguard Newspaper, Mr. Eze Anaba lamented that the challenge before the media in holding government accountable is now so huge as the economic situation in the country has also affected the media. He explained that most newspapers have dropped pages because of the cost of procuring newsprint, which is not available in Nigeria and have to be sourced abroad.
“If you cannot meet your family obligation, is it newspapers you will spend on? This is why the media has allowed itself to be dulled to semi consciousness and letting the government go with a lot of things”, he noted.
On her part, Chairperson of the National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Lagos Chapter, Mrs. Sekina Lawal tasked the media to speak with one voice so as to be able to address issues in unity. She stated further that the media should endeavour to do exclusive stories because an average Nigerian could easily predict what to see next in the paper.
According to her, that the media is termed ‘the fourth estate of the realm’ is not just for that sake, noting that it is not an easy task to be the watchdog of the society. She therefore urged journalists’ body; the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Nigerian Guild of Editors, etc, to speak with same voice adding that “ when the media is well taken care of, that is when journalists can take issues up.”