Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
For non provisions for its requirements for the effective media operations as a result of the activities of the Islamic Sect, Boko Haram in the North-East, the Senate on Wednesday rejected the 2016 Budget of the Ministry of Information, and directed it to rework the Budget and make those provisions.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, subsequently directed that the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, should bring a fresh budget that will cater for the needs of its media agencies.
Abaribe, while accepting the recommendations and appeal of the Senator Ben Murray Bruce, said that the Ministry, which is the executive, should return with a reworked budget.
Bruce, in his remark, had pointed out that during the Civil War, the media was effectively used to propagate relevant information.
He, therefore, appealed that the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and Voice of Nigeria (VON) to go and add the required component.
“It would have made more sense for the information budget of the Army to be given to the Ministry of Information to equip these stations to be used by the military as a source of communication.
“For instance, if there is going to be an air raid in a particular area, we can warn the citizens to stay off that particular area. The media can be used like when (Muhammadu) Buhari did in 1983 for War Against Indiscipline, War Against Corruption. So, National Orientation should use the medium that we have.
“I want to ask passionately that they resubmit their budget, taking care of the North-East because people are dying. This is not the question of spending money recklessly. So, I appeal that the Budget be resubmitted, taking care of their needs in the North-East; it is very important,” Bruce submitted.
He recalled thatradio was a very effective way of communication during the Civil War, which should also be employed in the war in the North-East.
While stressing that information had not been effectively used in the war against insurgency, he restated that the agencies be allowed to carter for the needs in the Budget.
He advocated the use of mobile television and radio stations that cannot be easily spotted or destroyed by the insurgent group.
In his remark, Mohammed, while commending the Committee for identifying the need, said that the Ministry was already partnering the military on information dissemination.
He corroborated that the activities of the Ministry had been hampered over the years by inadequate funding, which had hampered the reach of the agencies.
Mohammed exemplified that out of an annual budget of N600 million to fund VON, only about N120 million is released annually for the activities of the station.
He told the Committee that an inter-ministerial committee had been established cutting across the information ministry and the security agencies to source useful information.
“We realised that the last bit of the war is the severe component of the war and these are the major stakeholders.
“FRCN, NAN, NTA and VON have given me their schedules and at times we have like 16 slots within an hour to propagate this message.
“So, we agree with you but we are doing something about it and we are working very closely with the military on this, most of the information we have we got them from the military.
“We quite agree with you that the military should work with the ministry, we will improve on it but it is already ongoing,” he said.
He, therefore, corroborated the stand of the Committee and directed NTA, FRCN, VON, NAN to disclose what they needed to be able to prosecute this war adding that it would be huge.