Media Roles & Nigerian citizens’ right to information: Call for media’s equipment
By: Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq.
In the area of dissemination of information to the public, the media play great roles especially in the context of Nigeria as a developing country. Many challenges confronting some of the communities in Nigeria would or might not have been to the notice of the citizens if not for the media. Also, it is the constitutional right of the citizens to know and have access to information. This paper is of the view that in order for the media to thrive, there is need to equip the media and therefore calls for government’s support and regulation to ensure enhancement of the media and not to impede on their progress and effectiveness.
The word ‘Publication’ and ‘Media’ do not mean the same thing. The former means ‘the publicity, dissemination or making known of information by any means or through the mass-media’. See: Ejabukor v HRM Oshall (1990) 5 NWLR (pt. 148), p.1. SC. It is the communication of information generally, whether it be ideas, sentiments, opinions or facts and so forth. See: Ese Malemi, Mass Media Law, 3rd Edition, Princeton Publishing Co. Ikeja, Lagos, 2009, pg.4. The latter on the other hand, means in this context, ‘the means of mass-communication, such as: radio, television, newspaper, books, advertising and other media of receiving and disseminating ideas and information. See: EseMalemi (op.cit).
Generally, media is either: print or electronic. The print media refers to any form of writing, words, information, publication or communication usually, but not exclusively made on paper, such as: newspapers, magazines, periodicals, catalogues, brochures, handbills, books, tracts, leaflets, banners, whether or not made with paper, cloth, flex, information or instructions written on the body of any kind of product, such as: plastic plates, gift items, advertisement on the body of motor vehicles, bill boards, and so forth.
Electronic media includes every other medium of receiving, publishing, and communicating ideas and information other than paper, that is made by audio-visual publications, transmission or broadcast by means of electronic gadgets and equipment, such as: radio, television, fax, internet on the computer, photocopier, scanner, telephone and so forth. See: EseMalemi (op.cit.). This includes communication through social media. In other words, the media is the means through which publication is made.
In Nigeria, the freedom of expression of every citizen is guaranteed under section 39 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Constitution, 1999-herein after referred to as the Constitution- in Chapter IV. This section provides thus:
(1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impact ideas and information without interference.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions: provided that no person, other than Government of the Federation or of a State or any other person or body authorized by the President on the fulfillment of conditions laid down by an Act of the National Assembly, shall own, establish or operate a television or wireless broadcasting station for any purpose whatsoever.
(3) Nothing in this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society- (a) for the purpose of preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of courts or regulating telephony, wireless broadcasting, television or the exhibition of cinematograph; or (b) imposing restrictions upon persons holding office under the Government of the Federation or of the State, members of the armed forces of the Federation or members of the Nigeria Police Force or the Government security services or agencies established by law’.
Furthermore, the freedom of the media to disseminate information is guaranteed by the Chapter II of the Constitution in section 22 thus ‘The Press, Radio, Television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people’.
I therefore humbly recommend that the government should direct its policies towards equipping the media whether by its local or international media practices or treaties. This has a positive impact on the people’s belief and trust in the government and its operation.
Therefore, in my humble view, part of the means of equipping the media is for the government to improve electricity problems in Nigeria. This is much more important because where there is no supply of electricity, it might be very difficult for the media to thrive and it would be difficult for the public to also be exposed to the news around the nation and around the globe. Communication too is affected by electricity. In fact, a lot of things are wrong with Nigeria where the electricity is not improved upon or defective. At present, there are eleven (11) different electricity Distribution Companies-herein referred to as DISCOs among which is the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company-herein referred to as AEDC. They are owned by private individuals and not government, even though the government is also major shareholders of these companies. It is only regulated by the established government’s body (ies).
The Government’s Regulatory Body in charge of electricity regulation is the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission-herein referred to as NERC. The Ministry of Powers, the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Authority (NEMSA) established under the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Authority (NEMSA) Act, 2015 are main electricity power sectors. NERC is empowered by the EPSR to ensure an efficiently managed electricity supply. The Act mandates the Commission to ensure that electricity supply industry meets the yearnings of Nigerians for stable, adequate and safe electricity supply. The Act also mandates the Commission to ensure that electricity investors recover costs on prudent investment and provide quality service to customers. The Minister for Power, Works and Housing is empowered under the EPSR to regulate and supervise the Commission. The slogan uttered whenever there is electricity power disruption, where people shout ‘NEPA!!!’ and when the power is re-installed, they shout ‘UP NEPA!!!’ (the slogan which have continued to be passed to generations even those yet to come) is just a confirmation of a failed electricity power sector. At least, I have the personal experience of Saudi-Arabia and a friend of mine too shared his experience of Malaysia with me, for example, have constant electricity power supply, hence, their economic and media development, even, Ghana is said to be better improved than Nigeria in electricity power supply. Why can Nigeria not also improve in her electricity?!
This is what we envisage that our government’s officials in Nigeria who travel to foreign countries would borrow and implant such nation-building ideals and ideas in Nigeria for her development but never! This will not be the situation. Perhaps those who benefit from the failures are those who would wish that Nigeria continues and are always discouraging acts that would put Nigeria in her proper improvement with such comments as ‘Nigeria is a lost nation!’, ‘Nigeria is gone!’, ‘It can not be well for Nigeria again!’, among other discouraging comments. Whereas, it is in the same bad situation of Nigeria that they are building mansions, buying brand new labeled cars in vogue, sending their children to abroad for educational and career purposes, etc., yet, Nigeria is not better! This is so perhaps because they benefit from corruption and when the nation is not properly fixed.
Furthermore, in my humble submission, criminalities would also be resolved or be reduced by the use of technologies. For instance, the CCTv cameras would only work where there is electricity supply. Even solar is cost to obtain. The Nigeria Police Force has been reported in the newspapers to have promised to launch an application that would aid fight against criminality in Nigeria. This is indeed a wonderful idea but maintaining such technology with no electricity power or low current electricity is another challenge.
Also, the citizens are always vulnerable to criminals’ attacks during raining season, due to the operational surveillance and studies of those criminal elements who utilize the raining periods when people are deeply asleep and when there would be no electricity power supply to waylay their targets in the darkness, and would always succeed in their nefarious operations. Thus, the Nigerian media and communication means have collapsed as a result of bad electricity power in Nigeria.
Furthermore, security of media equipment is another means of equipping the media. Also, government needs to review its policies and regulatory institutions regulating media and the media personnel in Nigeria in such a way that the continuous freedom and effective operation of the media are guaranteed and the public’s access to information is assured.
Also, government needs to make provision for the security of media and the media personnel in order to aid media operation without fear or intimidation. Furthermore, I humbly recommend that government should make adequate provisions or financial allocations or grants to keep the media functioning and this is another means of equipping the media.
Finally, it is my humble submission that the media have great roles to play in the public dissemination of information to the public. Also, government requires the continuous operation of the media to keep the public abreast of how the government functions and the happenings in other local communities and the global nations. Therefore, equipping the media is the encouragement of its effective operation in order to ensure national growth.
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