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Foreign Journalists: As Nigeria Outsources Media Publications 

President Buhari Pictured In A Lighter Mood With His Media Aide, Femi Adesina

The emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29th 2015 as the newly inaugurated President for the next four years was significant in a few ways that merits a quick highlight herein. First, President Muhammadu Buhari came with a new political cliche of change mantra. Secondly, Nigerians were told that within the framework of this change mantra that government business won’t be done in the business-as-usual fashion and that transparency and accountability would be the watchwords.

Anyway, few public debates that preceded the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to partially make good his resolve to publicly publish his assets declaration go to show that achieving fundamental change of mindset amongst political office holders in Nigeria is never going to be a tea party. 

 Undeniably, it took some hard fought advocacy from some vociferous members of the organized civil society community who persistently shouted from the rooftops practically before President Muhammadu Buhari accepted to release in piecemeal the assets declarations he and his Vice filed before the Code of Conduct Bureau. The fuller details of those declarations are still shrouded in secrecy even as Nigerians as usual have moved on to other mundane issues as is the case with a people with very limited historically memory and a population severely deficient in the exercise of intensive national outrage. 

The current administration is again in the public eyes for disclosing partially a rash decision devoid of transparency to hire some foreign media workers to churn out a publication that would strictly be the major public relations gambits on the Nigerian economy even when from abundance of empirical evidence Nigeria is blessed with good enough Media experts and consultants that can as well implement this undertaken if hired. 

This method of outsourcing major media projects to foreign journalists was the hallmark of the immediate past administration which suffered spectacular global media tongue lashings even after sinking millions of United States Dollars of public fund in seeking to burnish her international media image. Just one event muddled up the entire media relations bonanza that the President Good luck Jonathan’s presidency unleashed at huge expenses to the tax payers.

Conversely, the current Nigerian Government in doing this outsourcing didn’t to the best of my knowledge advertise and invited public bidding for this job which from every indications will cost the country a huge chunk of cash going by the job specifications highlighted in the published story which emanated from the signing of memorandum- an elaborate State funded event that happened in the Presidency few days back. I sent a message via text to one of the top Presidency’s media Advisors demanding full disclosure on the cost components of this outsourcing but till the time of filing in this material yours faithfully got no feedback.                

 Specifically, in the verbose public relations statement issued by the Presidential Adviser on Media and Publicity and published extensively by a national paper, Nigerians were told that a leading research firm (how and who rated the firm is opaque) and publisher of yearly economic resources on national economies, The Business Year (TBY), has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Presidency of Nigeria.

In the MoU, signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, on behalf of the government, agreed that:

• The Presidency of the Republic of Nigeria will be designated the official partner of TBY for production of The Business Year: Nigeria 2016;

• The Presidency and the TBY team will work in partnership to produce a comprehensive new edition – TBY’s second publication on Nigeria’s economy;

• With the Presidency’s support and guidance, TBY will examine all major sectors of the economy as well as present the goals and ambitions of President Buhari’s new administration;

• The Business Year: Nigeria 2016 will examine all of the major sectors of the economy through interviews with business leaders and the captains of industry that are powering economic growth and diversification. TBY will survey the energy sector and highlight companies that have dynamically adapted to low oil prices. Special attention will be paid to the telecommunications sector, whose tech-based solutions are driving Nigeria’s ambition for greater transparency.

Other components of the memorandum signed includes the facts that;

• As well as highlighting landmark projects, TBY will investigate the investment climate within Africa’s largest economy and provide useful information about the country’s legal and tax structures. The Business Year: Nigeria 2016 will be presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, giving a global platform from where to outline the multitude of opportunities developing in Africa’s largest economy.

• With more than 150 exclusive interviews, The Business Year: Nigeria 2016 will be the most comprehensive publication of its kind on the Nigerian economy and an invaluable tool for investors seeking opportunities in the region. TBY’s interviewees, readers, and partners comprise an international network of thought-leaders helping to define the future of the global economy. In addition to widely circulated digital versions available on iPad, iPhone, and Android applications. Physical copies reach over 97,700 subscribers worldwide.

Herein are the ethical dilemma that bedevils this contract between the Nigerian Presidency and the foreign partners that secured this job: How much will the entire project cost? Who picks the bill? Why was the Bureau of Public Procurement Act not complied with by advertising and inviting bidders? Why breach the extant LOCAL CONTENTS ACT by outsourcing a job at least 50,000 Nigerian Journalists can competently and professionally handle? 

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and blogs @www.huriwa.blogspot.com; www.rightsassociationngr.com, www.huriwa.org.

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