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Consultant Tasks Journalists On COVID-19 Budget Tracking

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Public Finance Analyst and Consultant, Mr Kenneth Okoineme, has advised journalists covering health issues to track budgetary provisions on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) funds in the country.
Okoineme made the call in an interview with The Tide source on the sideline of a 3-day Annual Health Conference of Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ) at Goshen City, Nasarawa State.
Okoineme, a consultant with the International Society of Media in Public Health (ISMPH), however, rated health journalists high in the covering of COVID-19.
“The media have done well in the reportage of COVID-19. If not for the media, there would have been a lot of fake news and a lot of conspiracy theories.
“The media have been able to find its purpose in the whole situation, in trying to give balance and accuracy that reflect the reality on the ground.
“The media need to play a more significant role in terms of the reportage it puts out there. It has to deepen the nature of reports it puts out there.
“For example, the issue around mismanagement of COVID-19 funds.
“The media have a role to tell the people the truth. The media needs to deepen its reportage; it needs to do more of investigative reporting to help build our country again,’’ he said.
According to him, it is important that every kobo counts.
He said “This is where I call upon the international development partners, Civil Society Organisations to support journalists on budget tracking. It will help them to build the reign of accountability in country.’’
In addition, he said that COVID-19 had impacted on journalism, saying “COVID-19 distrusted a lot of things, the way news is reported, accessed and shared; what we have seen is full digitalisation of the media.
He said the pandemic had changed the way news is reported, is accessed and shared; what we have seen is full digitalisation of the media.
“Full digitisation and the use of big data and investigative reporting because the pandemic has taught us a lot of things on public finance management, accountability in public finance management.
“It has put journalists at the fore front of providing the kind of information that people need; that places more responsibility on the media.’’
Okoineme said why ISMPH was interested in budget tracking for journalists was to educate them on their role in tracking mismanagement of public finance.
“COVID-19 has changed the role media plays in terms of management of public finance and if we want to meet the target of eradicating several acute malnutrition; it is important to track budget.
“It is important that money that is budgeted for this purpose, serves the purpose in which it is budgeted for.
“The resource of government has declined because of COVID-19 and what it means is it that government has to prioritise and the resources available should be used more judiciously.
“The media plays an important role to ensure that accountability happens so they should take a closer look at the issue of financing in their reportage,’’ he said.
Okoineme, a resource person at the conference had earlier spoken on “Tracking and Utilisation of Nutrition Budget.’’
The conference which started last Friday ended yesterday with knowledge learnt on ways of deepening reportage in health sector, COVID-19 and reproductive health, among others.
The focus of the 4th Annual Health Conference of ANHEJ is on “COVID-19 Reportage Assessment.’’

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Reps Urge FG To Revisit School Feeding Programme

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The House of Representatives, yesterday, urged the Federal Government to revisit the school feeding programme, suspended over sundry controversies.
The National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme was a pilot programme launched in 2004 targeting 12 states to provide a nutritious midday meal to public primary school pupils in the country:
In 2016, the programme was relaunched nationally, targeting public primary school children using locally sourced ingredients to improve health, stimulate agricultural production, and boost smallholder farmers’ income.
Recall that President Bola Tinubu, on January 12, 2024, suspended all programmes of the National Social Investment Programme Agency for six weeks.
The four programmes administered by NSIPA are N- the Power Programme, Conditional Cash Transfer Programme, Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, and Home Grown School Feeding Programme.
Following the adoption of the motion, the House mandated its Committees on Special Duties and Finance to invite the Ministers of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Education, and Finance to revisit the program and propose solutions for its future success.”
The House, while adopting a motion on “Urgent call to revisit school feeding policy” moved by the member representing Tarauni Federal Constituency, Kano State, Mr Muktar Zakari, noted that the philosophy behind the NHGSFP is to encourage enrollment into the public primary schools, address childhood hunger pangs, and improve their ability to concentrate, learn, and increase school attendance.
The lawmaker, a member of the New Nigeria People’s Party, lamented that “The suspension of the NHGSFP by the current administration is unsettling for several reasons, namely reduced school enrollment and attendance, compromised health and cognitive development of the children, and disruption of the income of smallholder farmers.”
He also said “Addressing the programme’s challenges is crucial, but a complete suspension may cause more harm,” noting that “It is important to find alternative solutions or efficient implementation of the NHGSFP to ensure Nigerian children continue to benefit from this important initiative.”
In his words, “The cancellation of the programme is causing an upsurge in the number of out-of-school children, posing a threat to the country’s future and leading to a high rate of crimes, insecurity, and unemployment.”

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Insecurity: Reps Want Modern Technology Deployed In Nation’s Borders

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The House of Representatives has called on the Nigeria Customs Service to deploy modern technology to secure the nation’s borders with neighbouring countries.
The directive followed the adoption of a motion on “Need to employ the use of modern technology to secure the nation’s borders,” sponsored by the member representing Awka North/Awka South Federal Constituency, Anambra State, Obiageli Orogbu at Thursday’s plenary.
Consequently, the Reps mandated “The Nigeria Customs Service to beef up the nation’s border security with modern technological gadgets.”
It also directed its Committees on National Security and Intelligence and Customs and Excise to “Interface with the relevant agencies of the executive arm to ensure implementation and report back to the House within four weeks for further legislative action.”
Leading the debate, Orogbu said that there are over 320 illegal routes into Nigeria “That serves as horrendous channels for the influx of inadmissible aliens and goods.
“Nigeria at the moment lacks sufficient security personnel to safeguard the existing illegal routes across the borders. These unmanned routes provide avenues for insecurity, proliferation of arms, and dumping of unwholesome goods into the country;
“The porous borders have provided an impetus to the thriving drug and human trafficking routes all over the country.”
Justifying the significance of the motion, the Labour Party chieftain noted that, “Border policing has since shifted from the mundane use of only human beings to the deployment of sophisticated electronic based equipment for potency.
“The deployment of technologies like electronic sensors, video monitors, and night vision scopes to detect illegal entries has proved more effective in western countries than human security.
“Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, (drones) and dark fighter cameras are available to further enhance border controls,” she added.

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Kogi Lauds Appeal Court’s Verdict On Ododo’s Victory

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The Kogi State Government has hailed the verdict of the Appeal Court, Abuja that yesterday uAtiku hails Supreme Court judgment on LG autonomypheld the victory of the state governor, Usman Ododo.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Fanwo, made the government’s position known in an interview with journalists shortly after the judgment was delivered in Abuja.
Fanwo described the judgment as “sound,” adding that the it represents “echoes of the indisputable victory” of the governor at the poll.
He said the governor remains unwavering in his faith in the judiciary.
The conmissioner said, “Today’s judgment represents echoes of our victory on November 11, 2023. We campaigned round the state and worked hard to reassure the people that our party is the most reliable to take the state forward.
“November 11 will continue to be remembered in Kogi as the day that Kogites across the senatorial districts united to speak with one voice, birthing a resounding victory for the incumbent governor.
“Today’s verdict has offered another great opportunity for those who lost at the poll and in the courts to join the governor in moving the state forward.”
Fanwo said the court case did not in any way slow governance down as the governor has continued to “roll up his sleeves and deliver democracy dividends to the great people of the state.
“The jubilation that greeted the verdict affirming the victory of the Chief Servant of Kogi is a demonstration of the triumph of the people’s will.”
He urged the people of the state to continue to support the governor to make the state the Confluence of Excellence.

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