Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku
By Ahamefula Ogbu
The Federal Government Wednesday warned embassies and foreign organisations working in Nigeria to stop spreading panic through recycling old security issues as if they were new.
Instead, it advised them to collaborate with the country’s security agencies to address genuine security concerns where any arises.
Handing out the warning while briefing State House correspondents on the outcome of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, said while the government was not averse to any country protecting her citizens, it was not right to push out information that would create apprehension and concern on law abiding citizens of Nigeria.
He was reacting to a question on the action taken by the Federal Government over a warning by the United States Embassy to its citizens who have businesses to do in Nigeria to be mindful of places to go and to beware of large meeting places, markets, malls, places of worship and hotels among others where possible attacks of the Boko Haram sect, could occur.
Maku recalled that last year, the same embassy had raised a similar alarm which was addressed while security agencies gave assurances of their capacity to secure people within the country but wondered what fresh facts were at their disposal that justified the warning at a time the country was doing everything to ensure security of lives and property.
“Let me say this: I have been in the Federal Executive Council (FEC) since morning; I haven’t seen the report or warning that you are talking about but let me tell you that it is not new. You remember that about one year ago or so, a similar statement was made by some embassies and I think we discussed them in the council and we tried to respond to it whereas we believe that every country has a duty to its citizens to secure them and take decisions that will ensure the safety of their nationals.
“We have always appealed to such embassies and agencies not to create public panic in our country because some of these statements, when openly issued, create panic among the general public.
“I will still appeal that foreign embassies and organisations that are working within Nigeria, if there is any doubt at all, about the preparedness of our agencies to secure public places, I think it will be wise often to communicate that to us but I must say that as you are aware, our security agencies have over the last years increased their capacity to respond to some of the threats, particularly within this city and other cities and I believe that a lot of work is being done and we also know that when the issue came up last year, you remember that our security agencies reassured the nation of their preparedness to safeguard all our public places, especially the hotels and other places of public interest,” Maku explained.
“I will continue to appeal to all the foreign agencies working in our country to align more with our security rather than often running to make statements that can create undue panic among the public and I am not sure that security comes from such measures and I want to reassure and as I said, this thing has been there for a year; these statements being made are not new,” he said.
The minister also appealed to the media to stop giving prominence and space to anti-state groups as such actions lionise them and project their evil activities in likeable manners and appealed to media practitioners to be more committed to the protecting the interest of the country since even if they want to sell their papers have other stories they can use.
“It will appear to me that we understand the responsibility of the media as newsmen and as reporters but we are beginning to get a lot of panic from the sensational reports we have been giving to the anti-State groups. I think we have a responsibility to this country to be guarded to have some more discernment and to be very deliberate in the kind of attention and space we are giving to anti state groups.
“I believe it is wrong, I believe it is creating panic and hate for the country. Often we even break the rules because most of the sensational reports we have read in recent times emanate from text messages that have not been verified and they find their way to front pages of newspapers and lots of citizens are panicking from the media reports and I think this is our country, it is left for us as Nigerians and particularly as journalists to exercise greater responsibility when we are giving generous airtime, generous newspapers space to anti state groups,” he appealed.
The Embassy had said in a statement: “We advise all U.S. citizens to review their personal security plans, remain aware of their surroundings, including local events, monitor local news stations for updates, and report specific incidences of targeted violence to the US Embassy in Abuja or the US Consulate General in Lagos.”
He had earlier told newsmen that the Council which was presided over by Vice President Namadi Sambo has commenced deliberation of the on a memo by the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, to harmonise the database of public institutions in Nigeria so that it will be stored in a central data that can be accessed rather than each agency having its own.
Maku who confirmed that President Goodluck Jonathan travelled to Germany on a State visit said that adopting the central database which deliberation continues next week will avoid duplication of data compilation, pointing out that presently, most agencies maintained their own databases.
The harmonisation which will see the Ministry of Communication Technology monitoring and managing the deployment of information Communication Technology in Ministries, Departments and Agencies so that it will now be a one stop shop for data in Nigeria to serve all agencies.
“Currently, we have a data base that is maintained by the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, National Identity Card system etc, we also have banks keeping their own data base for their clients across the country, now this is not supposed to be so, we need a coordination such that the nation can develop one data base and different agencies can subscribe to it,” he said.
Maku said that there was a proposal by the Federal Road Safety Commission that has proposed the introduction of road safety education in the curriculum of secondary schools across the country while it has standardised the buses that could be used to convey children to school to avoid similar incidents in the past where pupils died due to unfit buses used to convey they.
He also said the council also reviewed the outcome of the National Council on Education meeting which recommended the establishment of secondary schools for nomads who have concluded their primary education while all school leavers are to be issued with certificates within three months of graduation.