The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, says he has always regarded the media as partners, hence the cordial relationship he has enjoyed with them over the years.
Speaking at a meeting with members of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) in Lagos on Thursday, the Minister said it is therefore inconceivable that he would attack the media, as some have insinuated in recent times.
”Gentlemen, I did say, at a different forum, that since we launched the National Sensitization Campaign (against corruption), corruption has started fighting back. I said pseudo-analysts and hack writers have invaded the media space to shoot down the campaign. You can therefore imagine my consternation when some people extrapolated that to mean that we have started attacking and blackmailing the media since we launched the National Sensitization Campaign Against Corruption.
”It is apparent that those making this accusation either did not read our statement in full or, if they did, did not situate it in the proper context,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed said even when his party was in opposition for many years, he had never believed that the media could be bought or swayed.
”And this explains why, during our time in the wilderness, we enjoyed more media support than even the ruling government or party. We have nothing but tremendous respect for the media, and we reject any accusation of attacking or blackmailing the media. We welcome any criticism of our efforts, because we believe that will enrich the discourse,” he said.
The Minister sought the support of the NPAN for the various campaigns which the Federal Government has launched or is planning to launch, including the National Sensitization Campaign Against Corruption.
”Gentlemen, we need your support for the ongoing campaign against corruption. Corruption is real and the cost is high. When we released figures of the huge sums of money that have been looted, we did not do that to vilify anyone. Rather, our intention is to give Nigerians a different perspective to the anti-graft battle,” he said.
Quoting a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Alhaji Mohammed said PwC compared Nigeria with three other resource-producing countries that are somewhat less corrupt – Ghana, Malaysia and Colombia – and concluded that Nigeria’s economy, which was worth 513 billion dollars in 2014, might have been 22% bigger, if its level of corruption were closer to Ghana’s.
”The report said that by 2030, the size of Nigeria’s economy should triple in real terms come what may. Yet if Nigeria manages to reduce corruption to levels comparable to Malaysia, its economy could be some 37% bigger still. The additional gain would be worth some 534 billion dollars, or about as much as the economy is currently worth. If it does nothing to change, then the cost of corruption in Nigeria would amount to almost 2,000 dollars per person per year by 2030. This is the grave situation in which we have found ourselves,” he said
Responding to the Minister’s appeal for support, the NPAN Chairman, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, said the association aligned itself ”with your patriotic views, especially in the fight against corruption”.
”The NPAN has always been at the forefront of the fight against corruption, and we welcome the new vista to fight corruption. As the media, we will work with you and champion the cause of corruption,” he said, urging the government to follow the rule of law and be fair to everyone in tackling corruption.