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$500 Million Loan Request By Lai Muhammed: My Take

The ministry of Information is applying for a $500 million loan as part of the $29.96 billion loan requested by President Muhammadu Buhari in the External Borrowing Plan (2016 to 2018) for Infrastructure development in the country.

According to a report by The Guardian, the minister said if the fund was approved, the NTA could be upgraded to enable it to send out signals that would be at par with CNN, “because we have the manpower and the technology.”

He has further argued that the loan will enable Nigeria meet up its commitment with other nations, to digitalise the nation’s media space.

This request has indeed created a lot of arguments and the government has indeed received negative comments from the opposition and concerned Nigerians.

MY THOUGHTS

NIGERIAN TELEVISION AUTHORITY (NTA) ought to be a business concern that should infact be a major revenue earner for government but over the years same issues that has plagued the Nigerian state and its Public service sits majestically at the NTA – corruption and maladministration.

NTA is a government institution which has been accused at so many times of only airing government positions on issues and as such has never been seen as the people’s project.

It is being noted that the drawing of such a loan will similarly go the way of normal allocations/subventions to government institutions and consequently be lodged in bits and pieces like the decapitation of Abia State.

It is argued that in a normal business concern, a comprehensive audit ought to have been made detailing the viability of the institution, an impact assessment review and consequently a sustainability profile detailing how such a loan through the viability of same institution can be repaid.

Viability and sustainability will include an assessment of the Management profile, revenue templates and as stated earlier a comprehensive audit report further reassuring the shareholders which is the Nigerian people of blocked leakage, effective operations and indeed accountability.

NTA as has been acknowledged by other media outlets that are more contemporary is one of, if not the largest,  largest Television station network in Africa with very wide reach. It’s reach  which goes beyond the borders of Nigeria even before the current digitalisation efforts is quite phenomenal.

However, the question at this stage is: “Can the NTA as presently constituted, managed and operated be viable enough to energize the draw down of such a huge sum of funds as a loan?”

Agreed we must strive to fulfill our obligations under varying international treaties/obligations aimed at digitalising our transmissions but it is also similarly for a sovereign state to provide such infrastructure in a manner that will not dialocate its economy and survival.

One has not seen anywhere just like the case was made for the botched National Air carrier in bringing to the public the processes and details of the transaction, which eventually did not sit well with certain indicators and hence its suspension.

In this case the details aren’t known and there’s no assurance that this will not be a holiday pack for the operators of that outfit.

However, I very well agree with the proposed infrastructure upgrade of NTA and the efforts of the Ministry of Information to get Nigeria to be complaint with international standards.

One may want to align himself with modern management and economic practices where the Ministry would have activated processes within the law to engage professionals in the industry and sought for such funds from the private sector.

It is no longer fashionable for government to wholly own a media outfit wherein it sinks public funds and yet such a concern is not viable enough as to be self sustaining and run like a business concern alongside its competitors in the market.

It is however the norm for governments to engage Media professionals that will achieve same effect that a wholly government owned media outfit would have achieved.

However it can ensure standards and professionalism through its designated regulators-the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission.

In fact just as has been posited in some quarters, an effective National Orientation Agency can saturate every media outlet with the government’s position on issues but it is antithetical to good conscience for a wholly owned government concern to continue on the requested trajectory.

We can all bear witness that both at the center and the states, that the citizenry will rather tune in to private stations who are more contemporary and effective on trending issues that affect the lives of the people than spare seconds on government owned media.

SOLUTION

This same funding or even more with the requisite capacity can be gotten from the private sector with the government still holding some shares in the enterprise if it must but such a strategy will inject the necessary drive and accountability that will revolutionize that institution and thus preclude the draw down of such a facility that MAY be counter productive.

We must begin to open up the space for the build-up f of a progressive society. We must begin to allow  for professionalism and integrity in our processes to allow for nation building.

This opinion is based on the information out here in the public. The shareholders have not been lectured by Lai Muhammed on the proprietary or otherwise of the draw down of such a facility.

The said effects/ consequences as being projected can similarly be met with the  hitherto suggested strategy or its like.

However, one will have to frown at the pedestrian reasons being advanced by the opposition PDP which is more of a beer palour talk than any intelligent discourse.

The opposition in its usual penchant at chasing shadows went on a frolic of accusation without verifiable facts on a hug wash assumption that a supposed “cabal” are the ones sponsoring the project to fritter the funds.

That is imbecilic and indeed evidence of its lack of critical thinking in matters beyond frittering away of our national resources which indeed it is a reference point.

Is the Minister of Information a cabal? Are all the members of the National Assembly the cabal? Are the public servants that must have proposed this augmentation a cabal?

Is the international community wherein we have commitments to Digitalise our media space cabals? That is the level of political and national discourse of an opposition. Very unfortunate.

The Ministry of Information can do well whether this loan is approved or not, to take steps to open up the space and infuse the right capacity, funding and processes that will indeed get NTA and similar government owned media houses to compete with CNN.

Comrade Obinna Ogwuegbu
Convener Mandateguard Initiative

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