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We Must Clean Up Port Harcourt City

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Hon. Osima Ginah

On the 30th of last month, Hon. Osima Ginah, Rivers State Commissioner for Urban Development was the guest of The Tide Roundtable, a weekly personality interview progamme of the Editorial Department, Rivers State Newspaper Corporation. Many know him as Mr. “Demolition” Why?.

He pulls down illegal structures and enforces urban renewal progammes of the state government. According to him, the law has been there since 2003, but what we are doing is to put them into practice.

He fielded questions on what illegal structures are, compensation payments to owners of demolished structures, water front , issues on aborigines amongst others.

Excerpts. Read on.

How would you want people to know you?

My name, Barrister Osima Ginah.  I was born 44 years ago, precisely 1st January 1965.  I attended St Michael’s State School, Angulama where I had my First School Leaving Certificate in 1978.  I then proceeded to Kalabari National College (KNC), Buguma between 1980 and 1985.  I worked briefly in 1986 and later taught in private schools until I got a job in National Population Commission where I worked for about 10 years.  I proceeded to the College of Arts and Science, Port Harcourt where I did my IJMB there in 1993-94 and in 1994-95, I was admitted to read Law in Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), Port Harcourt where I graduated in 1994 with LLB (Hon.).  I then proceeded to Nigerian Law School, Abuja and finished in 2002

I came and worked briefly with Late Dr Marshall Harry as his personal assistant for some few months.  In a view to practise my profession, I left Dr Harry and worked for about three years with a private chamber.  I started there in 2001 to 2003.  In 2004, I established my own office called Ibinabo Chambers at No. 9 Station Road Port Harcourt where I practised law for some time.

I believe I have an inner call to higher service to serve the public, so I indicated my interest to contest for Rivers State House of Assembly in Constituency II in Asari Toru Local Government Area.  Then I was a pioneer member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where I indicated my interest to contest for the House of Assembly seat, I really moved well and campaigned, but few weeks to the primaries I got information that my name had been removed from the register.  What would I be doing there?  Obviously it means that I will fail the primaries.  As a man, I took a bold decision and moved out of the party.  I resigned formally as a party member.  I sent my resignation letter to my Ward chairman who  acknowledged it, then I moved out of PDP to Action Congress (AC).  I continued my struggle to capture the seat but unfortunately, I lost the primaries. But as a determined politician I never gave up.  I fought harder.  It came to a stage I realised that politics is like sports.  If you don’t win, then you have to support whoever won the election.  So I supported my party to go into that election.  Unfortunately too we lost the election.  We lost the House of Assembly not only in my constituency but in the entire state and the governorship seat as well to PDP.  But we believe it was a stolen mandate, so we went to court.

At the time of fighting that battle, I became a useful instrument to my party.  My party was not buoyant.  It could not have paid so much millions to lawyers and so the responsibility was given to me to handle all the House of Assembly, National Assembly cases and the governorship petitions which I handled without kobo.

I was not paid.  It was still service to my party.  I enjoyed it.  I fought the battle, had so many challenges, threats to my life and inducement of money and property from the then government which I refused. But it came to a point when the Supreme Court gave the judgement and where Amaechi became a governor.  We looked at our strategy and I advised our governorship candidate that we don’t need to fight God-sent that we will not have a case.  And too we believe that we have so much to contribute and if we have genuine intention for the people of Rivers State then we can join Amaechi to contribute our quota.  And so at that point, we voluntarily withdrew our case from the Appeal Tribunal and that created opportunity for me to serve in government.    And I was called upon after some months to become a commissioner.  And my ministry, the Ministry of Urban Development was created; it was carved out of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development in December 2007.

And on the 4th of April 2008, I was called upon and sworn in as the pioneer commissioner in-charge of the Ministry of Urban Development to drive the urban renewal, planning and development policy of the state vis-a-vis the vision of Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.

Are you still single and searching?

No, no, no!  Like I said, I’m about 44 years and ten months and in 2001 precisely on 11th August I got married to a pretty lady who happened to be the last child, first daughter, only daughter of her parents, then she was Elijah Tiger, now Mrs. Osima Ginah.  We have two beautiful girls who look like their daddy and mummy.

And during my service as a private practitioner, I was also elected member of Nigerian Bar Association, Port Harcourt branch.  I was the pioneer assistant secretary of the branch.  I also served in various capacities at the bar.  I was a member of Human Rights Committee.  I was a member of Inter-Governmental and Legislative Committee and it actually gave me opportunity to serve.  These offices gave me a lot of experiences on whatever I am doing.

While in secondary school, I was a Prefect.  I was the Assistant House Prefect of the Wilberforce House and that gave me first test of leadership.  At that time, the Deputy Governor was the Senior Prefect of the school so the challenges of managing students particularly in hostels in my own House gave me experience in leadership.

In my community, the Angulama Community which I called the ancient town of the Kalabari Kingdom, a community where no one knows how it came to be.  Most of us in that community believed that we came down from heaven.  Our history has it that we just found ourselves there.  You know most communities there in Kalabari came from one point or the other but our community was kept by God and we found ourselves there.  We have no history of where we came from other than that place.  We were the first settlers and every other person came to meet us there.  And the language spoken by the Kalabari people is the original language of the Angulama people.  And I was a member of the Community Development Committee (CDC); once an Assistant Secretary to the CDC, Secretary of the CDC and Secretary of my community.  Up to the time of becoming a commissioner, I was the immediate past secretary of my community.  I also served in other capacities, I was the past president, Kalabari National College, KNC Buguma, 1985 set, now the president emeritus of the Kalabari National College (KNC) Old Boys Association world wide.  That’s a big responsibility on my part.  I was also the immediate past Secretary-General of the Committee of Friends Kalabari, highly responsible intellectuals of the Kalabari Kingdom.  In these various capacities that I served, I think I learnt to fit into the public service as a commissioner.

As pioneer Commissioner of the Rivers State Ministry of Urban Development, can you give us insight of what has happened in the ministry since you came on board?

Well, the Ministry of Urban Development is a ministry created as part of the vision of His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi for a desired change of the face of the city of Port Harcourt and the urban cities in Rivers State.  Before the creation of the ministry and my appointment you find out that Port Harcourt has almost turned to a garbage city.  A city where Rivers people could no longer be proud of and His Excellency saw the vision that there is need for urban renewal, there is need for development control and there is need for physical planning.  And in search for a man who he believes will key into the vision and implement that policy and here I find myself.

Like I said, presently I am a member of Action Congress, we call ourselves “Be Bold Action”, we believe that the responsibility given to us is also akin to our slogan.  When I came in as the pioneer commissioner incharge of that ministry I was the only person that was different from that ministry, there has not been new appointment other than the ministerial structure; the Permanent Secretary, Director, administration Director Finance and Director PRS.  All other departments as far as we are there are inherited.  So we looked at the vision of His Excellency, in order to implement and key into that vision we found that there has already been an existing law which is called Rivers State Physical Planning and Development Law, 2003.  The law was made when the governor was a Speaker at the Rivers State House of Assembly.

The law was designed first, it abrogated all the existing laws on physical planning, development control in Rivers State and gave the responsibility of physical planning and development control to the state government, vis-à-vis the Ministry of Urban Development.

Then as a lawyer, I studied the law and now decided to move into the field.  First, our approach is that we must clean up the city.  We looked at the city and found out that over time, the government’s inability to control development, the city has been developed, a lot of illegal structures have come up and people developed without recourse to government for approval.  The ministry has responsibility to give approval for physical and structural development.  Any form of development on land must as a matter of law be approved by the Ministry of Urban Development.  Before now, it was the Department of Urban Development in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.  Like I said, the ministry was created in December 2007 and you have this law in 2003 so when it was a department, it was that department in the ministry that would give approvals before you put anything on the land.  So we have the responsibility to monitor every development on land, we have the responsibility to plan and implement the physical planning of the state.  We have the responsibility to carry out urban renewal of the state.  Now, before the present government came on board, these responsibilities of the Ministry or the Department of Urban Development, over time showed government inability or government not having the political will to embark upon this exercise which caused the inhabitants of the state to carry out development without control and that gave rise to shanties. That gave rise to congestions, illegal structures and that gave rise to stores coming out and blocking the right of ways.

So we looked at it and said, one of the first things to do is to clean up the city of the illegal structures.  You will agree with me that Port Harcourt is a planned city.  The colonial masters, when they came in the first time, they came in, they planned the city, although Port Harcourt has now extended beyond what we know as Port Harcourt.  Now we have the Port Harcourt City Local Government Council.  We have the Obio/Akpor.  You will all agree with me that all the areas covered by Port Harcourt City Local Government were planned.  Diobu was planned.  Ogbunabali was planned; GRA Phase I and 2 were all planned.  We have up to GRA Phase 8, Amadi Flat, Town and Borikiri were all planned areas.

So we looked at the plan and said okay we have in some areas established fence lines.  If you build outside the fence line, your property becomes illegal structure.  But don’t forget that we also have situations where government because of favouritism has aided some persons to build where they are not supposed to build.  Some areas that are sanitary lanes, government has given Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) for people to build in such areas where they are not supposed to build.  And the law said once a structure is declared illegal structure, you demolish and government will not pay compensation. But where government has aided such person since you have Certificate of Occupancy to build in such areas where you are not supposed to build; equitable principle demands that you have to pay compensation.  So we mapped out our strategies, looked at the plan, looked at the law and moved to the field.  There and then, we started demolishing illegal structures.  You can now stand from one end of the street and see the other end of the street because of the openings.  Depending on the plan you have 3,4,5 metres or 10 metres away from the edge of the road some from the centre spread of the road.  Now all those that protrude outside their fence line were all demolished as illegal structures.  Now some areas of sanitary lanes that were built where they are not supposed to build we also demolished them. But where there are claims and judgment or approval we never hesitated by recommending for payment of compensation because it is His Excellency’s prerogative but not without exercising judicially and judiciously.  What I mean by judicially and judiciously is that it must be in accordance with the provisions of the law.

To be continued

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HIV/AIDS: As 2030 Draws Near…

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Years ago, the immediate past National Coordinator of the Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS In Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Victor Omoshehin, expressed fear over the ability of Nigeria to meet the United Nations’ “Vision 2030” of eliminating HIV in the country.
His fear stemmed first from the fact that Nigeria relies more on international donor agencies in terms of finance for HIV/AIDS-related programmes, and also the seeming inability of the Federal and State Governments to take up the responsibility of fully financing HIV/AIDS programmes. 
There was also the gradual withdrawal of their finances by such international donor agencies that were of the belief that, given the length of period they had spearheaded HIV/AIDS preventive programmes in the country, government at various levels should have been in position to own-up the processes.
Omoshehin summed up his fear thus: “If the Government of Change will not increase the domestic funding for HIV, then Nigeria cannot own up to the responsibility of achieving the Vision 90:90:90 by 2030 and we cannot end AIDS by 2030”.
During a visit to Nigeria from 7th to 10th of February, 2016, the then Executive Director of the United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), Michel Sidibé, met with Nigeria’s Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, and urged the Federal Government to increase its support for the Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Week, with the aim that all pregnant women are tested for HIV by the end of 2016, and all women who test HIV-positive have immediate access to antiretroviral therapy.
The Vice President told Sidibé, during the meeting, that Nigeria was making huge budget allocations for social investment programmes, in part, to increase access to health care and help end the AIDS epidemic. 
How much this amounts to, and to what extent such budget was truly executed on the purpose it is meant for was not clearly stated. This was in the face of widespread allegations of non-accountability of funds allocated to the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
One question that readily comes to mind at this juncture is if anything else has been done towards changing the narrative for the better, especially in the light of the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic which many believe has distracted attention from HIV.  
In a recent interview with newsmen, the Director-general of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Mr. Gambo Gumel Aliyu, stated that the focus on Covid-19 has not affected the mandate of NACA in its quest to check the HIV/AIDS trend in Nigeria.  
According to him, “NACA has been up and doing in the fight against HIV/AIDS by implementing our mandate. We have done extremely well during the pandemic and have recorded huge results we had never recorded before. We are passionate and optimistic to achieve our mission to the letter”.    
While noting that HIV/AIDS in Nigeria is largely funded by international donor agencies, Aliyu explained that “Nigeria is contributing less than 10 per cent at the moment, and this contribution is what we are increasing on an incremental basis every year.    
“We have this agreement with them (donor agencies) that, every year, we shall take an additional 50,000 people living with HIV/AIDS from the total number they are treating to add to our number,” he said. 
On June 8, 2021, the United Nations’ General Assembly held a high-level meeting on AIDS in which United Nations member-states adopted a set of new and ambitious targets with a pledge to end all inequalities faced by communities and people affected by HIV towards ending AIDS.
Towards this end, they agreed to reduce the annual number of new HIV infections to under 370, 000 and AIDS-related deaths to 250, 000, eliminate new HIV infections among children, end paediatric AIDS and eliminate all forms of HIV-related discrimination by 2025. They also committed to providing life-saving HIV treatment to 34 million people by 2025.
It is believed that if the international community reaches the targets, 3.6 million new HIV-infections and 1.7 million AIDS-related deaths will be prevented by 2030. To achieve this, the political declaration calls on countries to provide 95% of all people at risk of acquiring HIV within all epidemiologically relevant groups, age groups and geographic settings with access to people-centered and effective HIV combination prevention options. 
It also calls on countries to ensure that 95% of people living with HIV know their HIV status, 95% of people who know their status to be on HIV treatment, and 95% of people on HIV treatment to be virally suppressed. 
This target, 95:95:95, is an improvement from the previous ambitious target of 90:90:90, but has the same goal of either eliminating HIV, or reducing its spread to the barest minimum.
The question is what does this mean for Nigeria, knowing that towards the previous target of 90:90:90 the country’s efforts at meeting the target took a nosedive at some point in terms of funding, especially after international donor agencies started reducing their funding, leading to gradual pulling out.
Already, several HIV/AIDS programmes aimed at checking its trend have either gone moribund, or ignored because donor agencies no longer sponsor them. This is in the face of rampant allegations of deep-rooted fraud by way of diversion of monies meant for HIV/AIDS interventionist activities amounting to billions of Naira.
Meanwhile, the NACA DG last October stated that Nigeria needed the sum of $2.4 billion to control the spread of HIV in the country for the next three years. He explained that the amount is an estimation needed “to reach where we have targeted to be”.
According to him, the amount will enable Nigeria “to achieve the 95-95-95 initiative of the United Nations, where 95 per cent of people living with HIV know their HIV status; 95 per cent of people who know their status are on treatment; while 95 per cent of people are on treatment with suppressed viral loads, and we are on track”. 
He noted that “United States Government alone is investing, this year, over $400,000,000, global fund is investing over a $100,000,000 this year and the government of Nigeria is contributing its part”. 
Explaining Nigeria’s contributions further, Aliyu said “over the last one year, the Nigerian government invested about a $100,000,000, and 50, 000,000 persons are needed to be tested annually, but now the figure has been reduced because, when we did the estimation, we never knew we would identify such a huge number over the last 20 months. 
“So, with that projection, we may need to reduce the number and test below 50,000,000 persons to reach the range of 1,800,000 to 1,900,000; because, right now, we have 1,500,000. 
“Remember the annual incremental number is 50,000 to 60,000 every year. In the last two years, we identified 350,000, which is more than five times the number we identified every year”, he said.
With this, the NACA boss says the Agency is on its way to attaining its target to end HIV/AIDS by 2030.
“It is very feasible”, he said, adding that “We are not mincing words. In 18 months we have identified an additional 350,000 on treatment. In another 18 months, if we identify another 350,000 persons, we are done: we have reached the control level. 
“Once you reach the level, that is the first step. You have to reach the control level first, that is the condition. We have to control HIV first before we can end it. So, the control level is supposed to happen in 2025, but here in Nigeria we are very hopeful that this control level target will happen in 2022”, he said.

By: Sogbeba Dokubo

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Planting Trees To Save The Earth

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As an annual event, World Earth Day is celebrated to demonstrate support for environmental protection from degradation and experts say if the Earth has to be restored, humans must begin to plant as many trees as possible.
Until quite recently, it was common for people to plant trees as symbols of events; for instance, planting of orange or coconut trees in the name of a child, after its birth.
Marking the 2021 Earth Day celebration recently, the Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Port Harcourt, Professor Prince Mmom, said efforts at saving the trees is a race for the survival of the human race. With the theme: “Save The Trees, Save Humanity” organised by the Junior Chamber International (JCI), the varsity don said the Earth’s trees and forests are critical components of the world’s biodiversity as many forests are more biodiverse than others.
He pointed out that forests cover 31 per cent of the global land area and added that the total forest area is 4.06 billion hectares, which is approximately 50 x 100m per person.
Mmom explained that since 1990, it is estimated that 420 million hectares of forests have been lost through conversion to other land uses even though the rate of deforestation has decreased over the past three decades. According to him, between 2015 and 2020, the rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares per year, down from 16 million in the ‘90s and he said inhabitants on Earth risked losing basic life support systems rapidly on a daily basis.
The don maintained that the Global Tree Search database reports the existence of 60,082 tree species but that more than 1400 trees were assessed as critically endangered and in urgent need of conservation action. As at December 2019, he said, a total of 20,334 tree species had been included in the IUCN Red list of threatened species of which 8056 were assessed as globally threatened and, therefore, became vulnerable.
Emphasising the values of trees, he said from the existence of man on Earth, trees have furnished human beings with two of life’s essentials such as food and oxygen. As human beings evolved, he insisted that trees have provided additional necessities such as shelter, medicine and tools. His words: “Today, their value continues to increase and more benefits of trees are being discovered as their role expands to satisfy the needs created by our modern lifestyles”.
Mmom averred that trees are form an important part of every community as it concerns aesthetics and as he puts it: “we gather under the cool shade they provide during outdoor activities with family and friends”. He said that spiritually, they are beautiful and majestic, pleasant, relaxed, comfortable-feeling, inspirational, provide mental health and emphasised that many people plant trees as living memories of life-changing events.
The former Director, Centre for Disaster Risk Management, pointed out that trees are source of raw materials for industrial uses which generate income and eco-tourism potentials and added that they provide livelihoods that are essential for sustainable food production and medicines.
“Trees and forests are homes for the earth’s terrestrial bio-diversity”, he opined and said that the values of trees cannot be overemphasised as they contribute to their environment by providing oxygen and improving air quality.
He stated that Earth’s function of conserving water, preserving soil cannot be overlooked as shade from trees slows water evaporation and added that as trees transpire, they increase atmospheric moisture.
“They support wildlife, conserve soil and prevent erosion and nutrient loss; they are storehouses of large amounts of carbon, absorb carbon dioxide (Co2), removing and storing the carbon while releasing oxygen back into the air”, he explained.
In continental United States, the professor pointed out that non-federal forests store an estimated 38.6 billion metric tons of carbon which makes the climate to ameliorate. He regretted that rapid decimation of trees and forests is a threat to the survival of humanity even as he advised that human beings must take bold steps to reverse the trend for the benefit of present and future generations. As he puts it: “We must reduce the rate of deforestation.  We must plant more trees, cut one, plant ten and plant at least 100 trees a year”.
 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are doing more to create awareness on the need for people to plant more trees since one of the reasons is to secure the Earth especially with the soot all over the environment as a result of illegal refining of petroleum products.
Recently in Port Harcourt, Journalists for Sustainable Development in Nigeria (JSDN) flagged- off ceremony of the 2021 Tree Planting Campaign exercise with the theme: “Tree Planting Awareness Campaign: Combating Climate Change Through Sustainable Tree Planting Exercise”.
At the event, the Executive Director of JSDN, Pastor Parry Benson, appealed to those who felled trees in the name of harvest without replacement to stop as that was responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer, which is currently causing a serious threat to the health of humans on Earth.
He appealed to the Rivers State Government and other relevant authorities to set up taskforce that will be responsible for prohibition of felling of trees in order to tackle reckless cutting down of trees.
The Chairperson, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Rivers State chapter, Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, during this year’s flag-off of the 2021 tree planting exercise, urged people to plant trees in their surroundings if they wish to live longer on Earth.
An environmental engineer, Monday Amos, said, the Earth is for man and therefore human beings have to explore and exploit the earth and its resources to survive. He said that the result of exploitation on the Earth currently is the climate change, pollution and extinction of biodiversity that are due to the activities of man.
The activities of man on Earth, he said, are affecting humanity and this has given rise to how to solve the threat posed by the activities.
“But the Earth cannot remain the way it was created. As long as man dwells on Earth, activities carried out for man’s survival cannot be ignored. When people occupy a particular space definitely there will be a change in that environment”, he maintained. 
In the olden days as well as present day, man needed certain things to survive on Earth. Humans need firewood which is got from trees for cooking. Charcoal got from fire is used for ironing when used with charcoal iron. The smoke from burning firewood changes the atmosphere.  
So, because of these, experts say there is the need to explore sustainably instead of getting to the point of exploitation. Exploitation may take the Earth beyond its caring capacity to the extent that cannot replenish itself. The issue of climate change is due to extreme exploitation of the Earth, changes in activities in Earth – changes in period of rainfall, a little from the exact period as well as dry season and harmattan not taking place when they should.
Carbon dioxide is produced from activities of man, such as burning of petroleum products, gas and firewood. This, in the long-run, can affect the human system. In the Niger Delta area, according to experts, refining of petroleum products by throwing a lot of Co2 into the air and gas flaring heat up the system.  Economic activities by man contribute in damaging the Earth, environment and the eco-system. Yes, the activities are necessary for life to be sustained but the resources got from the Earth must be explored to achieve economic growth. 
So, sustainable development advocates that humans can achieve and explore the resources of the environment to achieve the economic growth without damaging the environment. This is the reason for advocating for renewable energies by many countries of the world to put a stop to the exploitation of the Earth.
For us to restore the Earth as much as we can, humans must plant trees to stop deforestation.  When trees grow, they form shade that stops Co2 in the atmosphere from eating the Earth.
Agricultural practises such as farming, hunting and fishing help man to survive in life but they have to be done sustainably. If humans have to restore the Earth, the locally operated refineries must be put to a stop because of black soot. Black soot is the implication of human activity on Earth. Since World Earth Day is an international activity; it is high time international best practices were put in place in refining. 
A chemical engineer, Titus Nbah, said modular refineries must be established in the Niger Delta region since locally operated refineries part of the problems affecting the Earth. Gas can be injected into the soil using the available technologies instead of flaring.  
He said Nigeria should domesticate some of the enabling laws which have been signed. Pupils should be educated from the kindergarten on laws guiding the rules on restoring the Earth. Since the essence of World Earth Day is to re-echo man’s commitment to the environment, the end product should be change of behaviour and policies that will restore the Earth.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Challenges Of Reporting Nigeria’s Electoral Process

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The Institute for Media and Society (IMS) in conjunction with the European Union Support for Democratic Governance in Nigeria, Component 4A (Support to Media), recently organised a Focus Group Discussion (FGD) on “Trends And Challenges In Fair, Accurate and Ethical Coverage Of the Electoral Process In Nigeria” in a bid to strengthen the media houses. Here, our reporter, Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, attempts an analysis of the main discourses at the one-day event held in Port Harcourt. 

Speaking during his open
ing address, the Executive Director, Institute for Media and Society (IMS), Mr. Akin Akingbulu, stated that the mandate of his Institute was to see that the Media provides fair, accurate and ethical coverage of the electoral process in Nigeria, adding that since the project started they have been working on this mandate and have recorded tremendous results.
He explained that the Nigeria Component, which is also called Support to Media, has four components, namely: To enhance professionalism of the media; To help to strengthen institutions to deepen and diversify the delivery of voter and civic education; To help strengthen the capacity of the regulators, especially the broadcast sector regulator, as to enable it do better on its mandate; and To drive the focus and attention of the media on marginalised groups in society such as women, youths, persons with disabilities for input participation of these particular groups in the electoral and broader democratic processes in Nigeria.
Akingbulu noted that, so far, there has been tremendous progress, adding that they have recorded these tremendous results through forums such as this over the past few years.
He further explained that the media is a critical stakeholder in the Nigeria Component for which reason they have come to Port Harcourt to engage in this activity, which falls under the sub Component, and is working on strengthening media platforms for improved delivery of voter and civic education in the electoral process.   
“We have brought together conscious and strategically important stakeholders to be part of this discussion as we believe that focus group discussion should be small, but qualitative; hence our choice of selection, noting that it is expected that those selected for the focused discussion will do a step-down at their various media houses.
“We trust that we will get the best out of the conversation that we are going to have here. To ensure that activities run well, we have put in place a timber-and-caliber facilitator, a Professor of Communication, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Ifeoma Dunu,” Akingbulu announced.
In her presentation, the facilitator of the group discussion, Prof Dunu stated that it was expected that the discussions would suggest ways to move forward, adding that, for her, it was not just conversation and discussions, but the way forward.
Dunu emphasised that this year is the electoral period in Nigeria, using Anambra State as an example. Looking at democracy and governance in Nigeria, she wondered where Nigeria’s Democracy is today. Is it progressing, retrogressing or stagnated?     
She added that IMS was in Port Harcourt to ensure that all the institutions responsible to the smooth running of the electoral process in Nigeria get it right, remarking that the discussion must find lasting solutions to some of the problems confronting the electoral process in the country.
The varsity don also noted that journalism challenges are part of the core challenges confronting the electoral process as journalists working in both the private and public media houses are faced with poor remunerations which forces them to give biased reportage.
In her contribution, the Chairperson, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Rivers State Chapter, Mrs. Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, drew attention to the meaning of democracy as a system of government in which power is vested with the people and exercised by them directly.
She, however, pointed out that in Nigeria the reverse is the case as this power is vested in the legislature, noting that democracy is not being practised in the country.
A staff of Radio Nigeria, Purity FM Awka, Dr Adaora Arah, who also spoke at the event, stated that there were many young broadcasters who engaged in broadcasting without possessing the requisite qualifications to do so. She, therefore, urged the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to beam its searchlight on television and radio stations, especially those operating in remote areas.
Arah stressed that many of them have not gone to communication schools, nor acquired the needed training on what broadcasting is all about before embarking on full broadcast activities, thereby bringing embarrassment to their stations, NBC and the general public.
In his speech, a member of the International Broadcasting Association of Nigeria (IBAN), Charles Maraizu, stated that the only way forward for the electoral process in Nigeria is for it to be centralised as there were many incidences that bedeviled Nigeria’s democracy.
He stressed that there were also voters’ apathy, in which the people were no longer interested to go out and vote as many of them have continued to express fear that their votes no longer count in elections. 
 Maraizu commended IMS for organising the programme and for always being gender sensitive as well as bringing serious-minded people on board for the focus group discussions saying, ‘whenever they do things, they always do it well’.
He advised everyone to generate ideas on the trends and challenges of the media “because, to me, it is not enough to produce gender sensitive media lens glass without representing it by putting it to action”, adding that IMS was always walking the talk and not just talking.
In his turn, the Director of Broadcast Monitoring at NBC, Dr Tony Anigala, informed that his Commission does not deal with an individual when a broadcast station violates the ethics of broadcasting.
He commended the IMS, which has been there over the years, helping NBC a lot during elections, adding that recommendations gotten from IMS platforms help the Commission to do better.
Anigala charged participants to produce positive results from some of the materials which NBC had given out to them and their organisations, while also adding that at any point in time people should tell NBC whatever it needs to do to improve, especially during the electoral process.
Chief Constance Meju, in her goodwill message, stated that marginalisation has been one of the challenges women go through, adding that her group has been pushing for more women to be included in all spheres as long as politics was concerned.
She was of the opinion that, as a way forward, both the private and public media, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC), among other institutions should be financially autonomous so that they can independently operate under the ambit of the law without fear or favour.
Meju also appealed that the training be extended to politicians and Nigeria leaders as they have allowed the security system to be too tight to the politics, remarking that governance is not about party. She advocated the retention of the multi-party system in Nigeria.
In summary, the main resolutions reached at the event include:

  • The institutions responsible to drive the electoral process in Nigeria are not strong. 
  • Structures needed for such drive, not in place. 
  • Individuals, journalists in both private and public media houses and relevant institutions should be financially well equipped, so that they can operate independently and within the ambit of the law, among others.
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