The MacArthur Foundation led other Nigerian civil society organizations to acknowledge the impact of an anti-corruption radio programme, “Public Conscience” on the government and citizens, as well as called for radio to be prioritized in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
The deputy director, MacArthur Foundation, Africa office, Dayo Olaide, led the commendations on Wednesday during the programme produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development (PRIMORG) in Abuja.
According to Olaide, funding of the programme by MacArthur Foundation has added significant value to the fight against corruption in Nigeria, adding that “Public Conscience” afforded citizens the opportunity to be informed and also get feedback that can inform communication with the different agencies responsible for driving anti-corruption fight in Nigeria.
He noted that the use of media in the fight against corruption was important because more Nigerians can be reached through radio at the same time: “The radio is able to reach millions of people; it enables the fight against corruption. Nothing can be more empowering than the type of work PRIMORG is doing and I think it is really rewarding to say that a lot of Nigerians whether they are professionals or not are able to call into radio town hall meetings, talk during vox pop.”
He said the foundation placed much trust on investigative journalism in the fight against corruption because of the critical role of the media and their responsibility to act as a watchdog.
“Corruption takes place in the darkness and at the middle of the night, so you need a strong, enabled, investigative journalism practice to expose and remove the veil of corruption.
“That is what is motivating our involvement, that we are trying to get media organizations to begin to focus more on investigative journalism in order to provide information that the public out there needs to get involved,” Olaide said.
Earlier, the executive director of PRIMORG, Okhiria Agbonsuremi, disclosed that “Public Conscience” was created to prick the conscience of citizens and make government to take necessary democratic actions against corruption and also to reawaken citizens’ consciences through radio across many states of the country.
“We have been able to get at least 15 states cutting across the five geo-political zones in Nigeria with the exception of the North East, and we have created content that reaches over 10 million listeners weekly through the syndication of “Public Conscience” on many radio stations across Nigeria.”
Agbonsuremi, while thanking the MacArthur Foundation for funding the programme, however, noted that, despite PRIMORG’s success story so far, the organization was not satisfied due to the government’s lackluster attitude to the issues of corruption.
“We have been successful, but we have not been satisfied because corruption resides in top government circles and it is a big challenge and it boils down to the root of the problem; that is, government continuous neglect to take action when corruption cases are reported,” He lamented.
On his part, the chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Abuja council, Emmanuel Ogbeche, said PRIMORG has been incredible for the past two years and drawn the needed government attention.
He noted that, “I remember the yellow fever and Lassa fever cases, government agencies made frantic efforts to tackle those two diseases and I think action was taken to remedy that effort. So, I am fully persuaded that radio has added value to the issue of transparency and accountability in public affairs,” Ogbeche said.
While, the chairman, Pegi Residents Association, Taiwo Aderibigbe stated that “Public Conscience” has been impactful to the dwellers of the community, stressing that the programme helped to educate the residents of Pegi and other dwellers of the Federal Capital Territory against sharp practices and extortion of unmetered customers by some staff of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company.
“I must confess that, in the last two years, the service provided by AEDC improved after PRIMORG’s radio town hall meeting and follow-up. The town hall was adjudged as the most successful because the feedback from residents is that over 80% of Pegi community are now metered. And the sharp practices by unscrupulous staff of AEDC all have now been taken care of,” Aderibigbe averred.
Asked how much a radio programme like “Public Conscience” can go in pushing anti-corruption campaign and advocacy forward, the deputy director at Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Kolawole Oluwadare, said: “People should know enough to hold government to account, but it looks like the war against corruption is not being owned because of perception and people think that such as what you are doing at PRIMORG is not important but it is because it is one of those programmes that people can easily get to hear and get information.”