The Annual National Conference/AGM of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations Practitioners in Umuahia, that ushered in a new president and governing council is the dawn of a new era, reports Olawale Ajimotokan
Abia State played the perfect host for the conference of image makers held at the International Conference Centre, Ogurube Layout, Umuahia, from April 25-28. The conference was tagged the Great Abia 2018.
It was no coincidence that three of the past NIPR Presidents; Kanu Offonry, Bob Ogbuagu and Mike Okereke were all of Abia State extraction.
Guests were treated to a cultural extravaganza at the Proudly Abia Night that climaxed with the Ohafia War Dance. The outgoing President of NIPR, Dr. Rotimi Oladele dubbed Abia as the headquarters of local contents from Nigeria. In the heat of his excitement, he coined a new line from the acronym A-B-I-A â€“ At Best In All.
Sirajo elected NIPR President
Mukhar Z. Sirajo emerged the 14th President and Chairman of Council of NIPR after the AGM while Comptroller Wale Adeniyi was voted the Vice President. Until his election, Sirajo served as the vice president of the institute for two terms from 2013. Sirajo promised to run an open administration that will reflect the essence of public relations practice in Nigeria.
â€œWe intend to run a very open administration and we are going to play our part in the Nigerian project so that PR will be properly re-positioned. And luckily for us in the past four years, I have seen the process of laying a good foundation for the re-positioning of the Institute. The previous council of which some of us were members had really laid a very solid foundation. And all we need to do is to build on the foundation,â€ Sirajo said.
He promised to consolidate on the re-certification process, so that the institute will have a very effective and up to date register of members and vigorously pursue the fight against quackery which has been giving the profession a bad image.
According to Sirajo, NIPR will insist on the compliance with the provisions of the law setting up the institute that makes it a criminal offence for anyone to practice the profession without the license and membership of NIPR.
â€œWe also intend to approach the Attorney General and Minister of Justice because the provision of the law states that the office of the AG is supposed to establish a tribunal that should try people found falling foul of the law. We want to begin to set examples.â€
He stressed that NIPR will also undertake advocacy visits to governments to ensure that the personnel they employ into PR related jobs do not fall foul of these legal provisions while the workers can be held accountable if they are practicing the profession.
In addition, he said the council will also ensure that proper placement of PR officers in the public private sector is given a prime place.
â€œAlready we have gone far. We know that the National Council on Information has approved the classification of PR into the system and we are waiting for ratification by the National Council on Establishment. So we are going to pursue that to its logical conclusion. We are going to reposition the secretariat so that we are going to have a’ functional institute that serves and will ease the burden on the Council because the president right now more or less runs not only the Council but the entire Institute,â€™â€™ Sirajo said.
He said membership drive will be used as a tool for revenue generation. Under this plan, he added, the institute will be going to campuses and universities that run PR and try to establish campus branches for the institutes to enlist the students.
â€œThere is a provision for student membership within the NIPR statutes. We are going to activate that. We are going to ensure that we maximise that so that we get the students properly introduced into PR so that when they leave school their integration is going to be smoother. We have student members, who while at school get the practical aspect and when they leave school just seamlessly transit into the profession.â€
Inducts 10 new fellows
Apart from Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, who was inducted the Patron of the state chapter of the institute, 10 new individuals were inducted as fellows of the national chapter.
Dr. Oladele, assisted by Chairman Body of Fellows, Tamuno Koko-Jack conducted the ceremony. Some of the new fellows include a former Deputy Governor of Enugu State, Okechukwu Itanyi and two traditional rulers, Otunwa Victor and Innocent Adiele Nwangue.
Others are Adekunle Razak Ogedengbe, Osondu Joseph Jerry, Nimotalai Ajala Ekundayo, Oboh Edet, Uche Chukwuma and Easter Nwogbu. Emma Agu was conferred with the Honorary Fellowship award.
The Secretary to the State Government of Abia State, Dr. Eme Okoro, who received the award on behalf of Governor Ikpeazu, declared the conference open.
The induction was Oladeleâ€™s last official function as president, before the accredited delegates elected a new president and Governing Council members for a new term of two years.
Welcoming the NIPR members, Ikpeazu paid adulation to the past presidents of the institute since inception in 1963, adding that he felt gratified that the members of the institute were part of the developmental process that was being initiated by the state government. He said that Nigerians are very competent people who can reach higher height if they use the brain God has endowed in them.
He also commended the institute on the choice of conference theme and added the NIPR members had what it takes to facilitate nationâ€™s economic recovery if given the opportunity.
Mohammed lauds PR in Nigeria
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, commended NIPR members for sustaining and advancing the cause of Public Relations practice in Nigeria despite daunting challenges.
Mohammed said the theme of the AGM: â€˜Sustainable Development in a Fragile Economy: The PR Perspectiveâ€™, could not have come at a more auspicious time, given this administrationâ€™s commitment to revamping the economy and returning it to the path of growth and sustainability.
The ministerâ€™s speech was delivered by Timothy Oyedeji, Director, Protocol and Public Relations of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.
He said the ministry would continue to support the institute in charting a course for a virile Public Relations practice in Nigeria, devoid of quackery, interlopers and towards the ideals of high professional standards expected from all its members.
The minister said government would ensure that more of her Information Officers are inducted into the institute to ensure that the ministry and indeed the nation derives maximum benefit from the instituteâ€™s continuing education/training modules.
He lashed social media commentators for making it a habit to twist the remarks and comments by public officials in order to malign those officials or cast aspersions on them.
He said government was not unaware that this hatchet job was being escalated in view of the forthcoming general elections.
Air Peace bags awards
One of the high points of the conference was the Service Industry and Individual Awards scooped by Air Peace. NIPR listed some criteria it used to give the national carrier corporate award. Oladele said these included time management, customer relations, quality of onboard food and handling of complaints. He said if the quality was sustained Nigeria will be a case study in the ease of doing business in Africa.
He said while the assignment took them four months going through aviation industry in Nigeria, 11 international flights within West Africa and 29 domestic flights, were monitored before a decision was made. Air Peace scored the highest cumulative mark of 67 per cent while the next airline got a total 51 per cent. The award was received on behalf of the airline by Ft Officer Aransi Adesola.
The Corporate Communications Manager, Air Peace, Chris Iwarah, said the airline, founded few years ago with only seven aircraft, now has 24 planes in its fleet and plies 12 domestic routes and four regional routes with plans for further expansion.
The keynote speaker, Richard Dayo Johnson made an inspiring presentation and a practical demonstration of how to manage a fragile economy by thinking outside the box. He advocated an inward-looking economic model for the country and challenged PR practitioners to use the narratives of Abia as a huge manufacturing hub to communicate the potential of the local economy. A discussion session was moderated by Yomi Badejo Okusanya, MD CMC Connect and had Dr. Virgina Benson- Eluwa, Head of Marketing Department of Abia State University and Hajia Lami Tumaka, Director Special Duties, NIMASA as discussants.
There were also breakout sessions on four sectors of PR practice which generated healthy debates and discussions.
Among the recommendations by conference delegates, were that in managing Nigeriaâ€™s economy, the federal and state governments should utilise the professional services of PR experts in building trust and confidence of the populace through strategic communications and that government should appoint experienced members of the institute into its Think Tank on the economy to help in providing creative solutions to the national economic challenges.
It also pressed on governments at all levels to ensure that the positions of Minister of Information and Culture, Commissioner for Information, SA Information and Chief Press Secretaries are occupied by certified PR practitioners.