Nigeria’s Dwindling Oil Rvenue: A Case For BT Cotton

Agriculture, Features

By Abdallah el-Kurebe

Oil is described as ‘Black Gold’ while Cotton is ‘White Gold’. While Nigeria is blessed with both, the former is threatening the nation’s economic strength while there are glittering economic opportunities in the later.

From a population of 4.4 billion people in 1980, the world dwindling economies is being further threatened with a population explosion of 7.1 billion, presently.

More so, the World Bank and FAO report reveals that arable land is declining – from 0.4 hectares in 1961 to a projected less than 0.13 hectares per person in 2050, thereby creating a damning gap of economic growth from 9% in 1965 and 2030 when 14% is projected.

Nigeria’s over-dependence on oil and her negation of other reliable sources of revenue, particularly agriculture is now telling heavily on our economy and by extension, Nigerians. Good to know that the best economies in the world today are NOT oil-dependent.

The need to diversify, specifically to agriculture which is now at the center of global change, is now. “We must diversify from oil, especially in the face of the present global threats of falling oil prices,” said the Director-General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Lucy Ogbadu.

And, as an advantage, agric biotech stands as a veritable way of boosting the agricultural potentials of Nigeria. Biotech should be part of Agric ‘toolkit’ for Nigerian farmers of the present day.

There may not be any better assertion than Prof. Ogbadu’s during a meeting on Cotton Value Chain that “Nigeria must key into Biotech in order to promote development and move from the present state.”
A Case for Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Cotton

If Nigerian agriculture must be prosperous, the cotton segment must be seen to dominate other segments in order to replace oil. This is because Bt Cotton has turned out to become a major revenue earner for most developing countries like India, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, etc.

India, for example, generates $6 billion annually for her economy from cotton exports and 66% of Pakistan`s export is from Cotton.

While Nigeria’s economic over-dependence on oil is telling negatively on government’s performance due to decline in global oil prices, on the other hand, Burkina Faso’s economy dependence on cotton has remained positive due to record cotton prices in the world market as well as a growing level of gold exports.

President of Cotton Farmers Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN), Alhaji Hamman Kwajaffa told me during the Cotton Value Chain meeting held recently in Abuja that Nigerian farmers now wanted Bt Cotton because at present, “while the Indian cotton farmers produce up to four tons of cotton per hectare, Nigerian farmers produce between 500 –800kg per hectare.”

Additionally, Burkina Faso which is less than the population of Nigerian Katsina State, “produces the highest cotton in the West African sub region even though Nigeria makes 80% of West Africa.”

According to the World Bank, “As cotton production in Burkina Faso posted unprecedented growth in the 2000s, the share of cotton earnings in export revenues, shot up from less than 40 percent in the 1990s to 85 percent in 2007.”

Agitated by this development, “Nigeria needs to be globally competitive and economically remunerative for our farmers to go back to cotton farming in order to contribute to Nigeria`s GDP,” Kwajaffa said.

If Nigeria buys into Bt Cotton production, our textile factories would be revived and our ginneries would be put back to work. 

Thirteen cotton varieties that are long staple and resistant to alternaria leaf spots and bacterial blight have been developed and released in Nigeria by the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), ABU Zaria with SAMCOT 11, SAMCOT 12 and SAMCOT 13 being the latest.

In addition to these, Nigeria could utilize Monsanto’s Bollgard Cotton, which provides built-in protection against bollworm pests thereby reducing pesticide sprays and increased yields for farmers. This will boost cotton farming as a way of feeding our textile industries as well as earning from exports.

Natalia Voriz, the monsanto’s Commercial Lead for West Africa said that “Bollgard II provides added protection against bollworms, caterpillars amd farmers get maximum yield, reduced pesticide costs and increased protection against insect resistance.”

Bt Cotton in India is a possible model for Nigeria in the sense that the two countries are on the same threshold of population pedestal. India has a population of 1.252 billion (2003) and Africa’s most populous Nigeria has 173.6 million people (2003).

Statistics reveal that cotton contributes 29.8% of Indian GDP (2007) and 25% of the global cotton area, becoming the 2nd largest global producer and consumer of cotton.

Voruz further says that the use of Bollgard II has risen “nations’ cotton acres from an average of 7.7 million hectares to 11 million hectares today; 60% yield increase and USD$7.4 billion incremental income from 2002 to 2010.”

Introducing Bt cotton in Nigeria would encourage seed companies’ research and development (R&D) to improve their own cotton seed germplasm and our
textile industries could be transformed to use substantial cotton produced while the remaining is exported.

Nigeria should seize the opportunity of Monsanto’s agricultural transformation agenda, which seeks to shift “from subsistence farming to an engine of economic growth by increasing yields in Africa,” especially at this time when her major revenue earner (oil) is no longer reliable.

However, in order to accomplish the feat of mass cotton production to rescue Nigeria’s now haggard economy (using IAR’s released varieties and Bollgard II), there is an urgent need for the passage of the Biosafety Bill.

The recent passage of the NABDA bill by the National Assembly, should be accompanied by the passage of the Biosafety Bill in order to, among other purposes, see to the development of agriculture.

In deed, NASS should see to the conclusion of the good job it has started. Biosafety Bill was a baby conceived by the Sixth Assembly but could not see the light of the day. It is important that this one MUST not also be allowed to die with the expiry of the Seventh Assembly. “Too many abortions do not produce a child.”

Biotech Communication: The role of Collaboration Between Journalists and Scientists

Agriculture, Features, Science

Biotech Communication: The role of Collaboration Between Journalists and Scientists
By Abdallah el-Kurebe

Biotechnology is one subject, which understanding by the generality of the people (except scientists), is shrouded by mix reactions. The misunderstanding of biotech creates the need for its proper communication so that people would understand the role it plays in development, generally.

However, since. scientists do not have the skills to communicate biotechnology, journalists readily situate themselves for the job.

Biotechnology is an evolving field of technology especially in Nigeria, the reason that the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) found it necessary to train journalists and agricultural extension workers on biotech communications and science reporting.

One of the papers titled: “AATF Biotechnology Research in Nigeria,” was delivered by the Regional Representative (West Africa) of AATF, Dr. Prince Addae at the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) Zaria, venue of the event.

He stated that the Foundation access, develop and disseminate agricultural technologies to mitigate constraints affecting crop production of smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

AATF, he added is involved in biotech research in the areas of Podborer Resistant Cowpea project; Maruca resistance in cowpea (beans); NEWEST Rice, Nitrogen-use efficiency,
Water-use efficiency and Salinity.

Others papers were: “The Safety Issues: Do We Have Concerns To Be Afraid?,” delivered by Prof. Mohammed Ishiyaku; “How To Write Impactful Stories” and “Who Do We Trust,” by Diran Onifade and “Why Writing Science Differs” and “Where Do We Find The Stories” by Alex Abutu.

Abutu identified the responsibilities of reporters to include developing a data base of experts; knowledge of science academy (ies); keeping tap on the universities and record of international organisations working in journalist’s area of interest as well as remembering to localise/find a local expert.

My observation is that Nigerian Journalists have prime access to some biggest stories of this century, especially that relate to the importance of biotechnology in tackling challenges of environment, health, agriculture.

It is pertinent therefore that scientists collaborate with Journalists. This is because the ultimate successes that could be recorded on the stories described above would depend on such collaboration.

In turn, the collaboration widely depends on available information about biotech from the scientists, especially such that could foster dialogue and understanding of biotech researches and the results they bring to tackle the challenges of science. 

No one is better positioned to deliver African biotech information than the African science Journalist. But the scientists must have to cooperate if this feat must be achieved.

Although science (and by implication, biotechnology) is not always simple to report, and since it must be reported, such report should be in a manner that creates true understanding by policymakers, legislators, other stakeholders and the general public. 

Editor of SciDevnet David Dickson says: “Good reporting of science in the media is vital in drawing the attention of both policymakers and the public to the important role that science and technology can play in achieving sustainable development, and scientists can contribute significantly to helping science Journalists ensure that this happens…” How? 

Journalists would play major role in setting governments’ agenda on the path of rolling out biotechnology toward national development.

Journalists act as intermediaries between various social interests and the wider general public. Therefore, their ties of loyalty and solidarity theoretically and practically lie with the wider general public. Collaboration between scientists and Journalists therefore will result in near-perfect or perfect understanding of biotechnology through better communication.

To properly communicate biotechnology, there must exist professional relationship between Journalists and scientists that is built on TRUST and ACCESS. This relationship if established, would create policy direction towards acceptability and adoptability of biotechnology.

But what constitute collaborative roles of journalists/scientists?

Scientists should build good working relationship with and create the needed confidence in journalists; they should grant interviews to journalists without fear of being misrepresented; they should invite journalists when scientific reports are being released and supply information to the yearning journalists with the immediacy it deserves and they should make available to Journalists (without asking) ALL research reports and return missed calls placed to them by Journalists

On the other hand, Journalists should create trust and confidence in scientists by avoiding misinformation, misrepresentations, etc; they should communicate with scientists efficiently, responsibly and with sensitivity on scientific issues that evoke strong public response; they should communicate by understanding both the journalistic and scientific methods as well as by verifying and collaboration and they should seek clarifications for contradictory opinions about research reports before publication and demand information with tact and the patience that is desired to ease having it.

It is when scientists and journalists agree to bridge the wide gap that exists between them, their role in communicating biotech would not be seen to be carried out.

Posted by Abdallah el-Kurebe

Why Journalists Smoke Cigarette

Features, Health

Why Journalists Smoke Cigarette
By Abdallah el-Kurebe

“Whoever does not smoke or drink will die in good health.” – Russian proverb

People, regardless of class, smoke cigarette against warnings in the media of its harmful effects. Journalists too, who run the same media that send those warning messages against smoking, smoke. Why do they?

As a social behaviour, smoking is influenced by the people around us. My interaction with some Journalists reveals that if everyone else is doing one thing, you start thinking it must be the correct or sociable thing to be doing.

Journalists are major stakeholders in enlightenment, awareness creation, advocacy and propaganda, especially against societal ills.

Although it may not lawfully be wrong for people to smoke, the fact that smoking is associated with certain health hazards, it becomes a social responsibility for Journalists to enlighten the public on the dangers of smoking.

The quick question is how confident a Journalist that smokes would write against cigarette use? In spite of their knowledge of the maladies that smoking causes and in view of their societal standing, just why do Journalists smoke?

My cigarette-smoking colleagues are my motivation for writing this piece. One of them, before he died four months ago of cigarette-related health issue, was a chain-smoker.

When he went to Saudi Arabia some years back on pilgrimage, he came back a born-again. He had quit the habit during the short time of the Hajj exercise but resumed shortly after his return.

Acknowledged truth is that smoking is not an easy habit to do away with. But while a small percentage of journalists are capable of quitting, many eventually pick up the habit again.

At an occasion, he confided in me that he had some uncomfortable pains inside his ribs and in his chest. “I sometimes cough out reddish substance and vomit so often,” he had told me. I advised him not only to quit smoking but immediately see a Doctor.

He consulted a Doctor who told him to stop smoking. He obliged, of course he could not continue because the Doctor painted a “lifeless-living” picture on his person.

The man died and it was common knowledge that he died of cigarette smoking.

Other Journalists engaged in cigarette smoking know the consequences. However, the thinking of many that I spoke with is that they could quit smoking anytime they want. But in truth, the habit have become ingrained; a lifestyle and an addiction that causes physical discomfort if they stop.
Journalists write reports about the dangers of smoking but why do they still smoke without putting their health risks at consideration?

Many of the Journalists I spoke with are chronic smokers. They all appear physically slim and unhealthy.

“I know every risk associated with smoking cigarette. I read the warnings of the dangers in smoking; I know I could have lung cancer; I also know I could die but I cannot easily stop smoking; at least not in the nearest future,” Goronyo Garba told me.

Iliyasu Malami told me that he could stop smoking when God deems it fit for him to. “The fact is that I cannot say what the benefits of smoking are but I still smoke. Sometimes, when I try to stop, I fail and I have given up trying.”

“Any time I see someone smoking, if I do not do same, I feel incomplete. I don’t know when but I know I will stop smoking one day,” Abdulnasir Umar who smokes one and a half packs of cigarette a day, said.

Umar Abdullahi is 62 year old Journalist who started smoking when he was six – 54 years today.

“When I was six years old, we were engaged by local traders to wrap cigarette for sale to the public. That was how I started smoking. I was rather influenced by friends who I also saw smoking,” Abdullahi said.

On why he smokes, “It makes me stable. I don’t enjoy any work if I don’t smoke. Even if one offends me while I am smoking, I don’t feel bad.”

He knows that cigarette smoking harms, “but I have never experienced any such harm,” and to guard against any harm, Abdullahi takes unorthodox concoction. “I eat banana, which makes me pass black excreta. I also take mixture of lime and alum.”

Mukhtar Boyi is a 50 years Journalist. He started smoking at 11 years by picking cigarette butts. He told me, “I smoke because I am addicted to it that if I do not, I feel I am lacking in something. To write stories effectively, I must puff cigar.”

Boyi smoked one and a half (30 sticks) to two packs (40 sticks) of cigarette a day. He now smokes approximately ten sticks a day. He knows about the dangers of smoking but although he sees the effect on others, he has never experienced any harmful effect. He will leave smoking one day.

Umar Ibrahim is a 57 year old Journalist who started smoking in his early twenties. Ibrahim was influenced by a close friend. He found smoking fashionable.

“I feel relaxed when I smoke because of addiction. If I want to get my brain stimulated to write, I smoke,” Ibrahim told me.

Although he is aware of the risk involved in smoking, he takes a packet of cigarette every day. He says he has not personally experienced it until recently when he had malaria and could not smoke for some days. “I think this is the time I will stop smoking. Although I have not smoked for these days I fell sick, I now have the urge.”

This Journalist wouldn’t want his name mentioned. He is 37 year old and started smoking at 27. He was influenced by his friend who would smoke and give him a part.

“I smoke a pack of cigarette in a day. I feel satisfied and comfortable when I smoke. I feel stronger if I don’t smoke, anyway. I know about the risks and hope to stop smoking one day,” he told me.

An Editor who spoke to me and who is also smokes cigarette said the he would not stop Journalists that he supervises from smoking.

“I smoke and I know how cigarette stimulates me to work. I believe it does the same to other Journalists. If it will stimulate them to work hard for my paper, why should I discourage them?” He asked me.

Cigarette smoking therefore is a part of the “occupational myth” of the journalist. But should it be taken in newsrooms, especially where there could be others that do not smoke?

Sociologists argue that every profession needs what academics call an “occupational mythology” to sustain it and, “by which men make their work tolerable, or even make it glorious to themselves and others,” said sociologist Everett Hughes.

If a journalist smokes, he does it to excess because he smokes each day; each hour and each minute that he writes. If you deny the journalist his self-image as a rule-bending individualist, you could encounter a bland and gutless reporter.

Editors know when and how to encourage newsroom smoking, as opposed to squelching it. The belief is in appreciation of Bob Woodward’s aphorism that “All good work is done in defiance of management.”

The reasons for smoking are mostly psychological and therefore, eliminating those psychological reasons is one sure way of getting rid of smoking tobacco products – even among journalists.

Posted by Abdallah el-Kurebe

Of GM Crops, Safety and Ignorance

Agriculture, Features

Of GM Crops, Safety and Ignorance
By Abdallah el-Kurebe 

“Victims live by excuses and ultimately die by them”

“Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, remain controversial, but like so many other politically hot topics, the controversy is more cultural than scientific,” – Dr. Steven Novella, a Senior Fellow and Director of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) Science-Based Medicine project.

“The genetic modification of crop plants is the defining feature of the domestication of plants by humans for agriculture,” – Biosciences for Farming in Africa (B4FA).

“As a result and contrary to popular misconceptions, GM crops are the most extensively tested crops ever added to our food supply. There are occasional claims that feeding GM foods to animals causes aberrations ranging from digestive disorders, to sterility, tumors and premature death. Although such claims are often sensationalized and receive a great deal of media attention, none have stood up to rigorous scientific scrutiny. Indeed, a recent review of a dozen well-designed long-term animal feeding studies comparing GM and non-GM potatoes, soy, rice, corn and triticale found that the GM and their non-GM counterparts are nutritionally equivalent.” – The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2012.

“Genetically modified crops (GMCs, GM crops, or biotech crops) are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques,” – Wikipedia. Therefore, the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species.

The domestication of wild crop plants and animals or traditional crop and animal breeding began with the adoption over the years of wild crops and animals by our ancestral farmers. This resulted (unknown to many of us) to what we have today as the domestic animals such as dog (which is a class of the fox); cats, (which is the class of leopard, tiger, etc) and domestic crops like groundnut, which is in the family of wild nuts like the walnut, etc. The domestication of these animals and crops was a systemic modification of crop and animal varieties gave birth to what we find in our homes today.

Ask a typical Hausa man in Nigeria what gwandan daji and gwandan gida mean. He will tell you that gwandan daji and gwandan gida are both sour saps. But while the former is found in the bush, the later is the domesticated one. And, aleden daji andaleden gida are both wild and domesticated pigs, respectively. There are several wild crops and animals that have been domesticated and therefore modified. The distinct features are noticeable having crossed the crop or animal over to an improved status. This has been the practice over the years. The advent of science brought about the improved crops modifications methods carried that are carried out in the laboratories. They are called biotech crops.

Developing and commercialising use of biotech crops, the world over follow regulatory authorities’ verifications in countries in which laws have been developed to regulate them. This regulation is done in accordance with well-established and internationally-accepted standards of risk assessment and with full ascertainment that the crops pose no more risk than crops produced through traditional crop breeding methods.

So far, the standardised development of high-yield varieties and the risk assessment approach by seed companies around the world, including but not limited to Monsanto, CropLife International, Dupont Pioneer, etc have been affirmed by the United Nations Codex Commission. This is why the Commission has affirmed the risk assessment approaches by numerous international organizations. It has also endorsed the health and environmental safety of biotech crops.

The international organizations include the Royal Society (UK); National Academy of Sciences (USA), which posits that “To date, no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population;” and the World Health Organization (WHO), which agrees that “GM foods currently traded on the international market have passed risk assessments in several countries and are not likely, nor have been shown, to present risks for human health.”

Others are the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the European Commission (EU), the French Academy of Medicine, and the American Medical Association.

Summarizing years of research by 400 scientific teams, the 2001 European Commission report on the safety of plant states that most studied and reviewed among food and food ingredient products in the world today are biotech crops. “Research on GM plants and derived products so far developed and marketed, following usual risk assessment procedures has not shown any new risks on human health or the environment… indeed, the use of more precise technology and greater regulatory scrutiny probably make them even safer than conventional plants and foods.”

Importantly, there are other institutions which, based on scientific research have made meaningful assessment and arrived at the veritable fact that processing food through biotechnology is not only safe for humans but also contributes to global food security. These include the American College of Nutrition which “supports the use of biotechnology to develop food crops that contribute to global food security and enhance the safety and nutritional value of food”; the American Medical Association which states their recognition of the “many potential benefits offered by genetically modified crops and foods… and encourages ongoing research developments in food biotechnology.”

Twenty-five Nobel Prize winners and more than 3,400 scientists have expressed their support for plant biotech techniques as a “powerful and safe” way to improve agriculture and the environment. Also, the International Society of Toxicology which says that “there is no reason to suppose that the process of food production through biotechnology leads to risks of a different nature than those… created by conventional breeding.” All these are scientifically-based positions.

One of the world major seed company, Monsanto has provided Solid History of Safe Use of Biotech crops. These include facts that – food and feed products containing ingredients derived from plant biotech crops have over a decade of safe use; several billion meals containing biotechnology-derived foods or ingredients have been consumed by people around the world; there is no reliable documentation of any food safety issues resulting from the introduction of genes, proteins or traits through the use of plant biotech and experience to date supports the conclusion that the regulatory process for plant biotech products has been successful and resulted in the marketing of products that are at least as safe as conventionally bred equivalents.

In the same vein, there are emerging evidences that plant biotech havesafety benefits and potential to improve food and feed safety and the safety of food production practices.

Most recently, Allan Reilly who the Chief Executive of the Food Safety Authority Ireland called for putting aside the irrational and non-science based fears of new agricultural technologies. “Over the past 20 years, the regulation of the use of genetic modification technology in food production remains one of the most controversial aspects of European food law. Opinions are polarised into pro- and anti-genetic modification lobbies. Reasons for opposition were many – ranging from protectionism, political ideology, food safety, fears of unknown consequences, the unpopularity of multi-national companies and potential environmental impacts.”

Reilly cites a review of more than 130 research projects on GMOs (funded by the European Commission) and involving more than 500 independent research groups as being that of biotechnology. In particular, the conclusion is that “genetic modification is not per se riskier than conventional plant breeding technologies.”

Dr. Novella points to the scientific evidences that have continued to evolve against the tidal wave of man-made causes. In spite of revealing evidences that life is a product of organic evolution, he posits that “over the same time scientists, based upon evidence, that vaccines do not cause autism. Yet, all these topics remain publically controversial. “Now, the science seems to be converging on the consensus that GMO crops are safe for the environment and human consumption…”

The most major cause for the controversies is ignorance. The lack of understanding of science and the “disconnect between public opinion and scientific evidence is not uncommon. “This,” according to Novella, “represents a serious challenge to scientists, science communicators, and those involved in public policy.”

Although the same ignorance makes humans to conclude that GMO are unnatural and therefore hazardous, “Humans have been altering plants and animals for their own use for thousands of years. Almost nothing that you eat is the product of evolution without extensive human tinkering,” says Novella.

Pigs were first domesticated in central Asia, at least as long ago as 9000 years; Goats (Capra hircus) were among the first domesticated animals, adapted from the wild version Capra aegargus about 10,000 to 11,000 years ago; Sheep (Ovis aries) were domesticated approximately 10,500 years ago; wheat, according to genetics and archaeological studies were domesticated some 12,000 years ago. (Source: Animal domestication). Therefore, modifying plants and animals are nothing new.

Precautionary measures in the introduction of biotechnology are important. However, necessity sometimes makes nations rush into the use of products without taking major cautionary steps.

Take the Ebola vaccine for example. When was it developed?

The example of Ebola Investigational Vaccine

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says: “The Vaccine Research Center (VRC) has developed an Ebola vaccine candidate in collaboration with Okairos…The investigational vaccine, which was designed by VRC scientists,…will enter into a phase 1 clinical trial, which could start enrollment as early as fall 2014, pending approval by the FDA. The VRC is also in discussions with governmental and non-governmental partners regarding options for advancing this candidate beyond Phase I clinical evaluation.”

The vaccine was yet to undergo Phase I clinical evaluation. It is being tested on patients struck by the Ebola Virus Disease.

“A risk vs benefit analysis is therefore most useful. No new technology is without risk, but sometimes opposing innovation has greater risks,” Dr. Novella says.

Abdallah el-Kurebe is a Fellow of Biosciences for Farming in Africa and Chair, African Journalists Network for Agriculture(AJNA).

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Good Governance, Corruption and Developing Nations: The Role of the Media

Features

Good Governance, Corruption and Developing Nations: The Role of the Media
By Abdallah el-Kurebe

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in a 1997 policy document described good governance as a measure that defines the processes and structures that guide political and socioeconomic relationships.

The key challenges facing Nigeria today is lack of good governance.  Coupled with this, is one of the major obstacles that have consistently thwarted our national progress and the actualization of good governance – corruption.

Governance is about making decisions and exercising power over people across the divides. Today, of global phenomenon is the word, ‘Good’, which prefixes the word ‘Governance’. These have produced a phrase – Good Governance to connote level-playing leadership in which everyone is pleased.

The characteristics of good governance include the rule of law, which requires fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially as well as full protection of human rights, across social divide; transparency, which implies the availability of information by those that government decisions are affected; responsiveness, which requires government’s prompt response to the needs of the people; and oriented consensus, which requires mutual, broad consensus by all over any issue that affects all. Others are equity and inclusiveness, effectiveness and efficiency and accountability.

Corruption is defined by Advanced English Dictionary as simply, “Use of a position of trust for dishonest gain.” Other definitions are: “Abuse of power for private gain,” – The United Nations Global Programme Against Corruption (UNGPAC). According to the World Bank (1997), “Corruption is the abuse of power for private benefit which thrives when economic policies are poorly designed, education levels or standards are low, civil society participation is weak, public sector management is poor and accountability of public institutions is weak.”

UNESCO observes that “Corruption is one of the hardest issues states have to face in the governance process. Corrupt practices rob governments of the means to ensure the best life for their people, while many in government may feel that exposure of corruption erodes their legitimacy. Journalists who investigate corruption often face severe reprisals as corrupt officials threaten their place of work, their families and their reputation. It is important for governments to take a firm stand against corruption and to protect both whistle-blowers and the media that report on corrupt practices in government. Legitimacy is only aided by a governance strategy that sees independent investigative media as an ally and not as a threat.”

Going by these definitions of corruption, Nigeria could be said to one of the hard-hit by the cancerous monster. Corruption is exhibited everywhere and by virtually all classes of the people of the country – from the bottom to the top. No class of the society seem to be left out of the dreaded menace – the politicians, the civil servants, the army, the police, the customs, immigration, officials of anti-graft bodies, all professionals, etc.

The role of the media as to how any nation executes its functions is manifestly important and everybody’s eyes and confidence lies on the media. This is because the media shapes opinion and sets agenda on the direction that things should move.

Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian-American citizen who waged courageous war against corrupt practices in government and business in the US said: “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself. The power to mould the future of the Republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations.”

The media has globally contributed in shaping good governance as well as checked corruption, especially in the developed countries. Therefore,  the future of Nigeria as a developing nation could only be moulded by the journalists. This is because independence in the nation’s media is precondition for her nascent democracy to flourish. We need a media that would not simply repeat what those in government would like to hear. An independent and unbiased media therefore cannot be managed by the government. An unbiased and independent media would fight its monopoly by powerful interests either private or public. 
Governance of the media requires the dimension of investment by different sectors and interests so that the over-dependence on government for funding would be removed. The implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA), which is the legal and regulatory framework that encourages freedom and pluralism in public information, does not seem to work well. We have received by many media organisations against situations where efforts to access information, especially from the public institutions, are frustrated.

In developing countries, there must emerge independent media that would take the lead in assisting the public to understand their role to monitor public servants and politicians in the management of their resources.

Future training of journalists should emphasize the values of independence, professional ethics, gender equity and the role of media in democratic societies. This will in no small measure, strengthen the media’s internal professional standards and increase public confidence in the reliability of the information provided. 

Although the Nigerian media can perform the task of moulding a virile nation, devoid of corrupt tendencies, he however faces certain uncontrollable challenges. The biggest challenges that the media face in getting issues to the public’s attention include the noncompliance by public servants and politicians with the FoIA. Additionally, as witnessed recently where the military launched attack on Journalists, press freedom is a mirage in spite of existing laws that seem to protect their rights to gather and disseminate information.

What also seems to work for corruption, even among journalists is the most unfortunate attitude of some publishers who would recruit journalists and only issue them with identity cards, with no salaries whatsoever. In fact, most Nigerian journalists are not on the payrolls of their presumed employers.

Sometimes last year for example, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) had cause to temporarily seal off offices of some media organisations for non payment of salaries. Jobs of most of those who claim to be freelancers do not attract any commission or form of remuneration. All they enjoy is ID cards with which they roam around in offices and houses of politicians. Guess what happens.

In cases as enumerated above, a Journalist uses his own money (if he has) to look for stories and file them with the medium, just because he wants to be identified with a media house. Those affected publishers are comfortable with the situation where they give a Journalist ONLY an identity card to work with. He doesn’t have to pay any journalist for the services he offers. This breeds corruption in the media and therefore negatively affects unbiased reportage.

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