Media and Nigeria’s Anti-corruption War

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Director, Centre Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan

The media has been identified as a key player in the anti-corruption fight and urged to lead the vanguard, writes Ugo Aliogo

The role of the media in the anti-corruption fight is very critical. Corruption is a challenge that confronts all countries. However, the solution to fighting corruption can be home-grown. A critical element of a country’s anti-corruption campaign is an effective press.

In the anti-corruption fight, the media is important in raising public awareness about corruption, its causes, consequences and possible remedies. It also investigates and reports incidences of corruption aiding other oversight (and prosecutorial) bodies.

According to a study, the effectiveness of the media, in turn, depends on access to information and freedom of expression, as well as a professional and ethical cadre of investigative journalists.

Additionally, such issues as private versus public ownership of the media, the need for improved protection of journalists who investigate corruption and media regulation are also critical.

That was why at the second edition of a policy roundtable organised by Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), ‘the role of the media in anti-corruption campaign,’ was brought to the fore of discourse with a focus to create a solid roadmap for the media in its anti-corruption fight.

The forum provided an atmosphere for frank reflection and analysis of the anti-corruption issues in Nigeria with a view to arrive at a broad and comprehensive position on the fight against corruption in the country from the media, civil society organisations (CSOs) and government perspectives.

The discussion focused on mapping areas of strategy for synergy building for robust engagement of media and anti-corruption reporting, success, challenges and opportunities in the fight against corruption.

Speaking at the event, the Director, Centre Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, said the centre was established to mobilise the global opinion and resources for democratic development.

She noted that the centre also provides an independent space to reflect critically on the challenges posed to the democratisation and development processes in West Africa.

Hassan, said CDD also provides alternatives and best practices to the sustenance of democracy and development in the region, adding that it is focused on strengthening democratic governance.

She said: “Since the issue of corruption remains persistent in Nigeria, putting in place adequate and effective anti-corruption response mechanism with a view a towards tackling the menace remains looming.

“These different dimension of corruption have characterised Nigeria landscape and by implication made it to be consistently rated among the most corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International (TI), in its corruption perception index.

“Taking pragmatic measures to curb corruption are of vital importance for Nigeria’s future given its implication on security, political, social and economic prospects of the country.

“Poverty, insurgency, militancy, infrastructural decay and all forms of social vices which are peculiar to the country are results of culture of corruption that are deep-rooted into the social fabrics of the society.”

In his presentation, with the topic: ‘Anti-Corruption Strategy and Media Engagement: Journey so far’, the Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, said CDD is a key partner in achieving the mission of the commission in curbing corruption in the country.

He also noted that the media has a role to play in the anti-corruption fight and helping the commission achieve the anti-corruption crusade.

Magu, who was represented at the event by the acting spokesperson, EFCC, Tony Orilade, said the CDD platform provides the opportunity to solicit support from the media in the fight against corruption.

“The single main problem militating against the development of country is corruption. It is a cankerworm that has eaten so deep into the fabrics of the society with the attendant ills on the citizenry. “That Nigeria has all it takes- human and mineral resources to truly be the giant of the Africa, is an obvious fact. So grave is the impact of corruption that the Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, described the battle to rid Nigeria of corruption as a battle between good and evil,” he noted.

The EFCC boss explained that fight against corruption is not between tribes, adding that it is a collective battle for the soul of Nigeria, “a battle for the future generation of yet unborn Nigerians; it is indeed, the battle for the future of Africa.”

Magu, further stated that the quest to ensure that an environment that encourages corruption is not created, was a duty reserved for everyone, including the media, stating that it should not be left to the commission and its sister anti-graft agencies.

According to him, “What we have observed as an anti-graft agency in recent times is that when you fight corruption, corruption fights back, and often times it does so through the media.

“In spite of the cordial relationship, which we have over the years strived to cultivate with the media, we have seen unfortunate instance, where a section of the media has decidedly chosen to instead, be ready tools in the hands of the corrupt, manifested in malicious, opinion articles and paid advertorials designed to malign the good intentions of the EFCC.

“It should be noted that the journalists and bloggers, are not only the writers of history, they are expected to be partners in progress with the EFCC.

“No one is an island of knowledge or sole repository of the know-how of fighting corruption. We must be united in this fight against corruption.

“As we approach the election season, it is necessary to once again stress that the EFCC will remain impartial unbiased in the discharge of its duties.

“In view of this, let me restate our commitment that we shall play our role effectively to ensure a free and fair election. We have put in place necessary machineries to make sure that vote-buying become a thing of the past.”
In his remarks, the Executive Secretary, International Press Centre, (IPC), Mr. Lanre Arogundade, urged the media to focus its reporting on what the society is losing as a result of corruption, “because sometimes it seems as if we are celebratory when we report these issues.”

He said there was need for the media to explain using figures how the monies looted by public officials can be properly converted to building public infrastructure such as healthcare delivery, education, road infrastructure and others.

Arogundade said: “The media should explain using figures how the monies looted by public officials can be properly converted to building public infrastructure such as healthcare delivery, education, road infrastructure and others. This will help the public to think and take actions. Many things in the country are creating confusion.”

The IPC Executive Director further stated that the media should endeavour to play the advocacy role by ensuring that they let the public know that if they don’t join the anti-corruption fight, they would continue to suffer under-development.

He advised the media to examine the inadequacies in the country’s legislations and see how the institutions can be strengthened; adding that there is need to have strong institutions to fight corruption.

Arogundade, added that much as the government of the day is fighting corruption, media report should not be centred on praising them always,

He remarked that the media should consider how to put in place structures that would ensure that when a particular government leaves office, the country would not return back to the days of underdevelopment.

According to him, “I think the online media could play a lot of role, first is that what we have seen from some of them, they are not weighed down by the problem of resources, compared with the professional media that has faces the challenge of salaries.

“They are smaller in size, and they can use so many tools online to carry out their investigations and report some of these issues. The online media are mostly privately owned; you rarely hear of government owned online media.
“Therefore, they are placed at a better advantage in the essence that they are much more independent to be able to carry out anti-corruption and transparency stories.

“I think the media has tried very well, but there is need for more efforts to be put in. There have been instances, where the media have taken up public officials and followed it up.

“The challenge is that it is only few media outlets that seems to be pushing the anti-corruption agenda. We don’t have the media outlets pushing the anti-corruption campaign.

“In Nigeria, we have over 200 media outlets, and it is just few media outlets that are pushing the campaign forward. What has been lacking in the past 10 years is many media outlets keying in investigative reporting.

“I think some of the challenges have to do with ownership, (which would be government or private) in some cases it would be private where the private owner has political interest. Therefore, the journalist is unable to report some of the corruption cases because of media censorship.”

He added: “There is also the challenge of resources because the media itself is facing economic crisis. If a journalist is going for investigative reporting, he should have enough resources at hand to be to travel and do investigative stories.

“Therefore, I think ownership and lack of scarce resources are major limitation on the part of the journalists who want to do investigation.

“Journalists should engage more in collaboration. In this era, investigative reporting is not what you do alone. If you walk as a team, if your medium doesn’t publish it, you can publish in another medium.

“I also encourage journalists to look for alternative source of reporting. You can freelance with some of the international media houses. So that the stories that you have done that will otherwise die because of media censorship can be publish it.”