By Tonnie 0. Iredia
History tell us that in most heterogeneous societies, multiple centrifugal forces make it easy for the fragile fabric that binds society together to give way at the slightest provocation.
To avoid the dismemberment of such societies therefore the remedy is to always pursue policies that can unite the different groups that make-up any such society.
Nigeria is a good example of a nation whose constituents have for long been restive about what many see as basic inequality in the management of public affairs.
This has over the years tended to accentuate ethno-religious intolerance compelling government to rely more on prescriptive criteria than merit in many policies.
Under the circumstance, Nigerian leaders have found it expedient to take steps to consciously dissuade the use of intemperate language that can inflame passion and cause anarchy in society.
But this has to be done without encroaching on the fundamental principle of freedom of expression which democracy guarantees.
According to Section 39, of the Nigerian Constitution 1999, “every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
However, Section 45 of the same constitution makes it clear that freedom of expression must not be used to make reckless statements that can adversely affect other persons.
In other words, government has a duty to ensure that laws such as that on defamation are made to protect the rights of other citizens. Bearing in mind that the mass media have the capacity of disseminating information far and wide, the conduct of the media has to be regulated to avoid disseminating insensitive materials that can pitch one group of society against the other.
Therefore, a regulation such as the National Broadcasting Code which among other things, seeks to prohibit fake news and hate speech that are injurious to society is tolerable, provided, it is neither politicized nor used for witch-hunting.
Put differently, no regulation should be negatively constructed to become a fault-finding tool or an instrument to gag the media.
On Monday, August 10, 2020, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank who is currently a Directing Staff at Nigeria’s authoritative Policy Research Institute in Kuru, Jos, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia while participating in a radio programme alleged that a serving Nigerian state governor was one of the commanders of the dreaded Boko Haram group.
In the reported words of Mailafia, “some of us also have our intelligence networks. I have met with some of the bandits; we have met with some of their high commanders – one or two who have repented – they have sat down with us not once, not twice. They told us that one of the northern governors is the commander of Boko Haram in Nigeria.”
As was expected, two relevant Nigerian Agencies, the Department of State Services, DSS and the broadcast regulator, the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, NBC quickly reacted to the subject.
While the DSS invited Mailafia for questioning with a view to extracting more facts on the authenticity of his claims, the NBC examined the broadcast against the backdrop of its mandate to ensure that no broadcast station is used to undermine the continued existence of the country.
The two agencies have since made a number of declarations on the subject. On its part, the NBC, instantly found the radio station, Nigeria Info 99.3 guilty of what it called “unprofessional broadcast” and imposed a fine of N5 million on the station.
In the case of the DSS, the conclusion arrived at was that it was indecent on the part of Mailafia to have disseminated such information without using his well-connected links in society to verify the heavy allegations before making them public. Thereafter the DSS warned all highly-placed citizens to show greater restraint in their public utterances.
Before reaching her conclusion, the DSS invited Mailafia twice for interrogation thereby giving him ample opportunity to defend himself.
When compared with the summary trial which the NBC gave to the Nigeria Info radio station, it is obvious that at least on this matter, the DSS has been more humane than the broadcast regulator. Although the DSS has all the instruments of coercion at her disposal, she was not coercive. Indeed, Mailafia’s lawyer testified that the service was civil in her conduct with his client.
Many people particularly broadcasters, this writer inclusive, have since remained baffled by the speed with which the broadcast regulator found the radio station guilty of “unprofessional conduct” in its transmission.
First, the interview was organized by the station on one of its regular slots – ‘Morning CrossFire’ where different personalities are invited to air views on burning issues, in which case it was a normal programme which had no trappings of mischief.
Second, the guest was by every standard, a first-class political news maker, capable of throwing light on issues of public interest being a bonafide Nigerian political leader who would have been our President if the party which sponsored him as a Presidential candidate had won last year’s Presidential elections.
Third, the programme was a LIVE broadcast that could not have been subjected to editorial control unlike a recorded programme that could be edited to remove unwanted portions.
Fourth, following global realities in broadcasting, LIVE programming is today the new trend making it untenable to question the format and philosophy of Morning CrossFire.
Based on the above, we think the NBC’s posture is not a plus to society just as it cannot improve the broadcasting profession in Nigeria. Rather, the huge fine on a purported offence, could only have instilled fear in broadcasters to now embrace self-censorship and timidity.
The NBC needs to move away and very quickly too, from that old perception of radio as an organ for telling the people what the government wants them to hear. Public expectations of the media in society have since gone beyond that narrow prism.
Today, the media is expected to undertake a surveillance of the environment, while monitoring the process of governance as mandated by Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution. It is also to serve as a link between the government and the people; as well as criticize and analyze events.
More importantly, the media is not only to inform the people but also to protect their rights to know while at the same time pointing out danger signals in the horizon for people to avert a woeful end.
As heavy as Mailafia’s allegation appears to be, there is no conclusive proof that it is false just as the allegation is neither different nor heavier than the old unproved belief that Boko Haram was founded by a governor.
The intelligence services should therefore see Mailafia’s addition as a new vista for understanding the advent and growth of insurgency and how to bring it to a peaceful end in our country.
Electioneering campaigns going on in Edo State at the moment, are replete with hate speeches thereby confirming that the greatest culprit of hate speech is the political class.
We cannot make progress if offending politicians receive sermons only while the media, they use are heavily penalized by a regulator, whose component parts – Minister, Board and Management are singing discordant tunes.
—Iredia is former DG, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA)
NCC DG Calls for National Book Policy to Address New Challenges
Mr. John O. Asein, director-general of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), has called on stakeholders in the book sector to work towards the formulation and adoption of a National Book Policy that would address the emerging issues in the sector.
He made the call in his remarks at a copyright webinar organised by the Commission as part of the Virtual Nigerian International Book Fair, 2020 over the weekend with the theme: “Information Technology as a Panacea for the Book Industry Sustainability Amidst the Covid-19 Pandemic”.
Mr. Asein noted that the COVID-19 pandemic presented practitioners in the book industry with an opportunity to redesign their business models, stressing that it was imperative for all those concerned to go back to the drawing board and address the new realities of today in order to guarantee a better tomorrow.
He tasked authors, publishers, printers, booksellers and others in the value chain to leverage on emerging Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools to sustain their relevance in the industry.
According to him, the Commission has harmonised its regulatory and enforcement framework for a balanced, responsive and sustainable copyright ecosystem that would continue to meet the needs of the wider creative sector.
The Director-General disclosed that in partnership with accredited bodies, the Commission would soon roll out measures to monitor the production, importation, warehousing, distribution and sale of books, lamenting the reckless abuse by pirates.
“The Commission will also activate all provisions of the Copyright Act, including the obligation on publishers, printers, producers and manufacturers of copyright works to keep a register of works.
“Our primary objective is to provide a more congenial business environment for copyright business, check book piracy and promote effective management and enforcement of rights”, he added.
He indicated that the proposed measures followed discussions between NCC and stakeholders like the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), the Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA), the Booksellers Association of Nigeria (BAN); and the Chartered Institute of Professional Printers of Nigeria (CIPPON), to develop appropriate technology-based solutions to some of the lingering problems in the industry.
Noting that Nigeria ratified the Marrakesh Treaty in October 2017 to enable persons who were blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled have access to published works, the Director-General also urged publishers to deploy information technology to ensure that more books were made accessible to such persons.
“We urge relevant Government agencies at Federal and State levels to adopt a policy requiring all government funded book production or procurement agreements to include an obligation that the books should also be made available in formats that blind and visually impaired persons can access”, he stated.
He assured that the Commission would partner with the Nigeria Association of the Blind to follow-up on its collaboration with the Accessible Book Consortium (ABC) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for the training of publishers and braille production centres to promote the production of school books in accessible formats.
He condemned the rising incidence of illicit book sharing on WhatsApp groups, rogue e-libraries and fraudulent online bookstores, especially in the wake of the pandemic and e-learning solutions that it has forced on the education system.
To this end, he assured right owners that the Commission would continue to monitor the online space and respond speedily to reports of copyright abuses.
“In the meantime, the newly established Online Inspectors Unit in the Commission’s Enforcement Department will also be taking preemptive actions to disrupt online infringements”, he said.
Speaking on the “Challenges of Copyright Enforcement in the Digital Environment”, the Commission’s Director of Enforcement, Mr. Obi Ezeilo identified outdated laws, need to collaborate with different agencies responsible for aspects of online dealings, the difficulty in identifying true copyright owners and the reluctance of online service providers to take down infringing works, as some of the problems militating against effective enforcement of copyright online.
Other challenges identified included the problem of gathering evidence to prosecute online offender; territorial nature of copyright law making it difficult to go against offenders domiciled outside Nigeria; and the frequent changes in technology in the digital environment.
Other resource persons at the webinar were the Deputy Director, Regulatory Department of NCC, Mrs. Susan Bashorun, who made a presentation on “Practical Guidelines for Copyright e-Registration System” and a Chief Copyright Officer, Mr. Kunle Olatunji, who presented a paper on “Management of Rights in Literary Works: Imperatives for the Digital Environment”.
The webinar, moderated by NCC Director of Regulatory Department, Mr. Augustine Amodu, drew participants from across different copyright related sectors.
Lagos Traffic Radio Launches Live Report Motorcycles
The Lagos Traffic Radio 96.1FM has launched a Pilot Scheme for Live Traffic Report system to aid Lagosians with information while commuting around the State.
The motorcycles would enable the number one traffic station in Nigeria have on-the-spot reporting of traffic situations in the State.
Gbenga Omotosho, Lagos commissioner for Information and Strategy, who launched the motorcycles at the station’s office in Ikeja, said the development represented a symbol of creative thinking of the agency.
According to him, the State is moving towards a transportation system driven by technology, while stating that it is going to play a key role in traffic management across Lagos.
The commissioner stated that the Pilot Scheme was a key step towards using technology to revolutionise the management of traffic in Lagos, adding that the problems of traffic in the State, was a source of concern challenging the creativity of the present administration.
Omotosho said it was a fact that information was necessary to efficiently commute in the State without being stranded, speaks to the significance of the scheme.
In his words: “If you look at the T.H.E.M.E.S Agenda of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration, transportation is a very big pillar and in fact the very first one, and because it is the very first one, we are not joking about it.
“We are looking forward to the day that we are going to be reporting from the skies. I am also looking forward to the day that every thing that we do about Transportation is driven by technology.
“It high time we got this kind of thing all over Lagos; the drone monitoring traffic and everything. All I want to assure you is that that first pillar of the T.H.E.M.E.S Agenda is so important that whatever idea anyone body brings that can ease transportation in Lagos and make us look forward like all other big cities in the world, Mr. Governor is ready to accept such ideas.”
He said he was excited because of the symbolism of it all and because of the creativity that this had brought.
“The symbolism of it is that they are not just sitting down there, they are thinking about how to improve what they are doing.
“They are going to fasten the movement of our Traffic Radio officials to accidents and every other thing disturbing traffic, so that people can get accurate information. There is nothing you spend on information management and gathering that is too much.
“I see this as a first step. It will get to a stage that Traffic Radio will acquire its own helicopter and get its officers all over the place to do their job based on the fastest technology.
“It will get to a time that we are going to be reporting from everywhere, because there is nothing left for us; the population is there, the traffic is there. So everything is challenging us, challenging our creativity, and ability to manage the little resources that we have,” he said.
Omotosho added that “You are not looking at the this as just mere inauguration of motorcycles but the symbolism behind it; that it’s going to ease reporting, and enhance the fact that of all the things that we do, either in government or private affairs, information is key. if you don’t have information, you are dead. You need to know where you are going to, you need to know what has happened where you are coming from.”
The commissioner urged the management of the Radio “not to rest on their oars” but rather “continue to think on your feet on how to do better as a Radio station.”
In his opening address, Tayo Akanle, general manager, Lagos Traffic Radio, said the initiative was borne out of the occurrence of incidents on highways coupled with little or no comprehensive live reports.
He said the pilot scheme was designed to change the travel experience of commuters as they usually under-go harrowing experiences whenever there was a major incident on the road.
Akanle stated that the development would aid on-the-spot report of traffic situation in the State, saying that professional, comprehensive, real time and accurate information would be shared through the radio station and social media platform of the Agency.
According to him, the motorcycles would aid the station’s operations by allowing it to arrive timely at the particular incident spots towards providing on-the-spot live and accurate reports that would assist commuters make informed decisions, especially knowing the root cause of the traffic gridlock they were experiencing at that particular time.
He said the reports disseminated would now be more professional, comprehensive, real time and accurate, as it would be handled by trained journalists from the Station, adding that the information would now be shared through the airwaves and on social media platforms for a wider reach.
“You will all agree with me that the speed and manoeuvring ability of these motorcycles would be apt for this operation, just as it is a clear departure from the past where our reporters arrive late at these incident spots thereby hindering the provision of live and accurate reports for commuters,” he said.
The General Manager said the live reports at the incident spot would serve as a major boost to the delivery of information on traffic flow, while providing available alternate routes that would reduce convergence of vehicles leading to gridlock situation on highways.
He added that it could also be used as a veritable database for future projections on traffic management and transportation systems design for the State.
According to him, “the whole idea however, is inspired by the need to enhance road traffic movement and add value to the travel experience of motorists and commuters in Lagos State.”
Akanle commended Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for the support towards the actualization of the Pilot Scheme, which was borne by the desire to vitalise the traffic management system of the State as captured in the Administration’s policy thrust, tagged the T.H.E.M.E.S. Agenda.
He added that the Pilot Scheme was complementary to the efforts of other stakeholders in the management of traffic in the State.
“This Pilot Scheme, is the contribution of the Lagos Traffic Radio to the actualization of the Traffic Management and Transportation component of the T.H.E.M.E.S Agenda for the socio-economic development and empowerment opportunities for all residents in Lagos State,” he said
Dr. Frederic Oladeinde, commissioner for Transportation, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Mr. Oluseyi Wenu, hailed the initiative, stating that the importance of such on-the-spot reporting could not be over emphasized.
He said the effort was key to the actualization of the administration’s traffic management vision, a pillar of the T.H.E.M.E.S Agenda.
Engr. Olajide Oduyoye, general manager, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), said the initiative was an improvement on the profile of traffic management in the State, saying that the development was a welcomed one as it would complement efforts of LASTMA officials.
Olusegun Ogungbemide, sector commander, Federal Road Safety Corps, Lagos, who was represented by Mrs. Olabisi Sonusi, said the development was timely and highly commendable, particularly with the congestion of traffic during the “ember months.”
FG Commends Igbokwe on Promotion to Chair of Universal Studio
Federal Government has congratulated Nigerian-born Pearlena Igbokwe on her recent promotion to Chairman of the Universal Studio Group, a division of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies.
In a statement issued in Abuja Alhaji Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and Culture, said the Federal Government is very delighted at the news of the promotion, which is the latest in a string of successes that have been recorded by Igbokwe.
”The fact that, in her new role, Igbokwe will lead the American company’s growing global television studio business, which includes Universal Television, Universal Content Productions (UCP) and NBCUniversal International Studios, is a pointer to the huge responsibility that comes with the promotion and a testimony to her capability.
”Igbokwe is an inspiration to millions of youths around the world and, in particular, those in our country’s burgeoning Creative Industry. We wish her success in her new role,” he said.
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