On behalf of the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos-Nigeria, Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN), I warmly welcome you to this training workshop on the use of the Freedom of Information Act for the Investigative Reporting of Political/campaign finance and Covid-19 accountability issues.
This is pursuant to the aims and objectives of Component 4b: Support to Media of EU-SDGN project being implemented by our organisation to empower the Nigerian media and journalists to be professional, ethical, issue-focused, gender and conflict sensitive in the reporting of the democratic governance and electoral processes. The project also seeks to equip journalists with appropriate skills to engage in the reporting of democratic accountability in order to check impunity in the electoral process and ensure that elected politicians are made to account for their campaign promises.
It is in the above context that the programme for this workshop has been designed to examine some dimensions to the issues at stake including the role of the media in ensuring good governance, the understanding of the frameworks and issues in campaign finance, the understanding of the Freedom of Information Act and best practices in investigating and reporting political/campaign finance issues.
Additionally and crucially, the workshop will also be looking at the need for journalists to embrace investigative methods in the reporting of Covid-19 issues, largely because of the perception, and perhaps the reality, that the funding aspect of the fight against the pandemic is not meeting the requirements of transparency and accountability with so many questions hanging out there: How much has been deployed to the fight by the federal government and what is the breakdown? How much have the state governments deployed to the fight and what are the details? What are the sources of the funding and who are the donors? What is the cost of the isolation centres built around the country? Who are the contractors? Were they selected in accordance with procurement laws?
The need to ensure that these issues are properly addressed at this workshop have made us to assemble an array of resource persons who we expect to bring their diverse expertise to bear on the discourse. We are therefore grateful to Dr. Abiodun Adeniyi, PHD. Lecturer, Baze University and former communication consultant for World Bank Economic Reform and Governance Project (ERGP) at the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Presidency, Abuja; Ms. Tobore Ovuorie, award winning freelance investigative journalist; Mr. Eze Onyekpere, seasoned Lawyer and Director, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Abuja and Mr. Edetaen Ojo, renowned advocate for access to information and the Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda for accepting to make presentations at this workshop with my humble self not left out.
In concluding this welcome remarks, let me also say that this workshop is taking place at a time when there is growing public perception that the Nigerian media has been compromised and that there is a dearth of investigative journalism; so much so that those of us who argue that there are still dedicated journalists sometimes get scorned. We therefore have the challenge of winning back public trust by holding as sacrosanct the constitutional obligation imposed on us by the constitution to monitor governance and holding government accountable to the people.
While not being oblivious of the obstacles that daily confront us including all forms of threats by the government and the political class, for which we require our media professional associations and bodies to be proactive in confronting, we must still realise that our best defense lies in sticking to good journalism.
In this regard we look forward to the investigative stories that you will be doing based on the knowledge acquired. I hope that this workshop will contribute to the attainment of this important goal.