By Ededet Nyong
Ukaid and PERL are at it again. This time it’s a media roundtable at the expansive bowels of the Lagos Continental Hotel, Victoria Island with the theme, ‘Enhancing Governance and Service Delivery at the Sub-National Level: Leveraging on the ongoing Constitution Amendment Exercise.
In collaboration with Democracy Vanguard, the Ukaid funded PERL, which is an acronym for partnership, engage, reform and learn converged media executives across the length and breadth of the country to articulate ideas and ventilate pathways to good governance at the sub-national level.
The exquisite lodgings and salivating cusines which has become an hallmark of PERL events did not abate as the organizers went out of their way to ensure the participants were comfy ahead of kick-off which saw the national team lead of PERL-ECP, Dr Adiye Ode delivers her welcome remark. She reeled out the main objective of the roundtable which she said was to engage the pen pushers as well as gravitate their reportage toward the ongoing constitution amendment process.
Sam Waldock, a representative of the British High Commission was also on hand to welcome the participants. He re-echoed the support of the British government in strengthening democracy in the country and expressed optimism that the event will help reduce the information and knowledge gaps that exist in certain stratas of the populace.
To help broaden the knowledge base of the media practitioners on the knotty issues on the plate, one of them , a veteran in the business, Mr Soni Irabor, had the floor to present the keynote address on the topic: The Role of the Media in Enhancing Governance and Service Delivery at the Sub-National Level: Challenges, Opportunities and Recommendations. He listed the functions of the local government as enshrined in the constitution and bemoaned the fact that the state government had usurped most of them, there by rendering the third tier its appendage. He reeled out tons of recommendations to include:scrapping the local government joint accounts, upgrade of entry level qualification for local government administrators, to mention a few and urged the media to serve as ombudsman to accentuate these recommendations.
Dissecting the keynote address, a panel of five discussants made up of Sen. Babajide Omoworare, senior special assistant to the President, Senate; Mr Femi Adesina, special adviser to the president, media and publicity, represented by the director of information in the presidency; Mr Oladunjaye Biodun, among others outlined the critical role of the media in enlightening the public of the ongoing 5th alteration of the constitution and the two-third concurrence needed from the 36 State Houses of Assembly to push through the already passed bills.
An overview of the 5th Alteration of the 1999 Constitution and implications for governance in Nigeria was the next topic for discourse and it was expertly handled by Mr John Mutu, deputy national team lead, technical, PERL-ECP. He gave an overview of the 5th Alteration, stating that of the 68 issues raised, 44 of them were passed by the National Assembly, thus awaiting two-third concurrence by at least 24 State Houses of Assembly. He then focused on the challenges of governance at the sub-national level and said that granting administrative and financial autonomy to the local governments will help enhance good governance at the grassroots.
Another panel of equally eminent discussants also took turns to do justice to the paper presentation, Dr Rueben Abati, former presidential spokesperson; Prof. Ayodele Atsenuwa, DVC, Development Services, University of Lagos; Funmi Iyanda of Oya media, among others were on hand to lend their expert opinions to the discussion. Issues raised include: women exclusion, weak institutional framework, independence of the State Assemblies among others.
The moderator of the session, Dr Olive Igbuzor, chief of staff to the deputy president of the Senate, thereafter opened the floor for the media practitioners in a plenary discussion to ventilate their challenges as well as recommend modules to help them in citizen engagement. The no holds barred session threw up issues like poor remuneration, intimidating workload, government censorship, political affiliations, among others as factors mitigating media practice in the country. The members of the 4th estate of the realm pledged albeit the challenges to up the tempo of discussion on the 5th alteration process through their reportage so as to beseech the State Houses of Assembly into concurrence on the 44 issues already passed by the National Assembly.
Once again, PERL-ECP has raised the bar in citizensengagement by engaging media executives in a roundtable discussion on the ongoing 5th alteration process of the 1999 Constitution.
From the very robust intellectual engagements to the elucidating paper presentations, the media executives have been turbo-charged to produce and disseminate more illuminating reportage on the constitution amendment process.
Indeed, there was an engagement and information gap, but thanks to PERL-ECP and its partners, Democracy Vanguard, the gaps are now blurred.
Special kudos to the PERL-ECP national team leader, Dr AbiyeOde; deputy team leader, Mr John Mutu; Sen. Bala Adamu and Amb Jerry Ugokwe of Democracy Vanguard, among other support staff for crafting through the media engagement. The benefits are sure to tumble in and in torrents.
To God be the glory.