We believe that the media ought not to be put on a political pedestal that does great harm to objectivity. The media should not be reduced to handmaidens of any government in power.
President Muhammadu Buhari has just embarked on a hail of sackings of public officers appointed by former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The removal of the run-of-the-mill political appointees comes within the terrain of leaving with the government that initiated the perks of office.
However, the removal of the Chief Executives of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and five Federal Government-owned media and advocacy institutions by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, raises questions on the issue of unduly politicizing the media space.
On Monday, February 15, Minister Lai Mohammed met with Mr. Emeka Mba, NBC’s Director General; Mr. Sola Omole, Director- General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA); Mr. Ladan Salihu, Director-General of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN); Mr. Sam Worlu, Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON); Mr. Mike Omeri, Director-General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA); and Mr. Ima Niboro, Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), and there and then summarily informed them of their removal.
He then went ahead to ask them to hand over to the most senior officials in their various establishments. We believe that the media ought not to be put on a political pedestal that does great harm to objectivity. The media should not be reduced to handmaidens of any government in power. The hiring and firing of media executives this way clearly shows that partisanship has been implanted in an institution that ought to be higher than biased umpires.
We would like to align with the argument of Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Lagos that given the sensitivity of the positions the federal media executives held, the action of Minister Lai Mohammed in summoning them to his office and unceremoniously dismissing them from their jobs was humiliating and capable of undermining the independence and integrity of the institutions that they were presiding over.
It is very crucial as the MRA pointed out that Mr. Mba, who was appointed on May 9, 2013 had served less than three years of the five-year tenure specified by the law; Mr. Salihu, who was appointed on February 6, 2014, had served only two years out of his statutory three-year tenure; Mr. Omole, who was appointed the same day, February 6, 2014, had also served only two out of his three year tenure; Mr.Worlu, who was appointed on March 4 2015 had served less than one year out of his statutory five-year tenure; while Mr. Omeri, who was appointed on January 16, 2012, had only served four out of his five-year tenure.
The truncating of their service span is a clear and present danger to anybody appointed to any of these federal media agencies. There ought to be security of tenure for the executives to properly deliver on their mandates.
According to the Executive Director of the MRA, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, “Although the laws establishing these institutions make provisions for their removal from office before the expiration of their tenures, such removal can only be effected upon the fulfillment of certain conditions and there is no indication at this time that those conditions were satisfied.
In any event, the chief executive of a regulatory body of the stature of the NBC and those of national public service media institutions and agencies should never be dismissed from office in the manner in which this has been done.” Stressing that the institutions should be insulated from partisan political actions, Mr. Ojo highlighted that “the laws establishing these institutions never intended that the fortunes of their principal officers should be tied to those of the political party in power.
The credibility of these institutions is absolutely vital to their effectiveness in achieving the objectives for which they were established. Actions such as these, which include them in the spoils of office to be shared among the members of a victorious political party undermine their credibility, independence and integrity.” It is noteworthy in the circumstances that although President Muhammadu Buhari approved the dissolution of the governing boards of Federal Parastatals, agencies and institutions with effect from July 16, 2015, he has as yet not reconstituted the bodies seven months after they were dissolved.
The media should not be made to suffer the fate of sundry political appointees given the sacred duty of the press at large as the acclaimed Fourth Estate of the Realm. Making federal media agencies to take matters that require the attention of their boards to permanent secretaries, as they have been asked to do, is a flagrant violation of the laws establishing them, and this is inconsistent with all the tenets of the rule of law.
It is indeed unjustifiable under a government that has come to power promising change. The government should be circumspect in undermining the independence of the press as portended by the current action of Minister Alai Mohammed. In the true spirit of change, the media should be positioned to serve higher national interests beyond partisan concerns.