Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has called on the Federal Government to grant waivers to media houses on newsprints, printing machines and other imported consumables in the industry to enable them stay in business.
This comes amid plans by the NGE to partner with government to create more jobs and make the media industry more viable.
The President of the Guild, Mrs Funke Egbemode, made the call when she led leadership of the Guild to a meeting Wednesday night with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
She said the industry was in distress and since it was not a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) but businesses that pay taxes, pension, they are also in need of intervention funds in order to stay in business.
Speaking to State House Correspondents at the end of the meeting, Egbemode, who described the discussion with Osinbajo as fruitful, assured that the media will remain professional in the discharge of their duties.
“We are businesses and a sector of the economy. So, we came to talk about this sector, what are things that are available, opportunities that are available for us as businesses,” Egbemode said.
“We are leaders in the newsroom as editors and we want to partner, we want opportunities to train and re-train. We also came to talk about the distress in the industry. You know, we are not a Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), we are businesses and a sector of the economy. So, we came to talk about this sector, what are things that are available, opportunities that are available for us as businesses.
“Yes, we are professionals, we know what to do, like former President of the Guild Mr Femi Adesina said, ‘we can’t get into bed with any government’. We have a job to do, we will do it without fear or favour but we are also businesses, we are taxpayers, we pay pension and do every other thing that businesses do. So, why is it that we are able to support everybody, every sector? Can we get support also as businesses? Can the system provide cushions for us, can we get intervention funds? Our discussions were fruitful.”
Egbemode applauded the positive response from the Vice President, saying: “He has told us areas we can explore as a sector and that when we start working on it, it is possible that certain projects in the media can be looked at by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for intervention. But you know, it is business, I am sure, terms and conditions would apply.”
Asked about the intervention funds expected, the NGE President said: “It is work in progress. It is something that we can go and discuss with the CBN and other agencies; we are just starting because we don’t want media houses to continue to die. We lose jobs, but we help build the society, we help build other businesses, we just think that we should not continue to work but extend our frontiers and look for opportunities so that we can create jobs. The government is interested in creating jobs and we should help them in creating jobs. We should show them how job loses can occur and that’s the whole essence of asking for partnership, for opportunities to open doors for interventions in our industry. It is not about selling our souls, it is not about doing anything unprofessional, we have a job to do and we will do it. It doesn’t matter who we have dinner with.”
On whether she was not afraid that when government supports the industry, it would expect complete patronage from the media, the NGE President assures: “It is not that kind of patronage. Is the government going to say that because we report good stories, we should not pay taxes? We pay taxes so, we are talking as businesses, we are talking about things that concern an industry and we should not pretend as if all is well. With us as businesses, we as professionals, we will do our work. Doctors do what they need to do, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t try to better the health sector. It is okay for doctors to better the health sector so, it is also good to better the media industry. Why can’t we, for instance, have special rates when you want to bring in our consumables because most of these items whether in print or the broadcast industry are imported. Can we have special concessions at the ports when we bring in our machines? When we bring in newsprints? Those are the kind of things we are talking about. It is a business issue.”
On the collaborative efforts between the Guild and the Nigerian Union of Journalists to check quacks in the profession, Egbemude said: “It is a permanent effort. Everywhere there are originals, there will be attempts to create fake. When you are doing something good, people want to imitate you so, the fact that there are quacks means that there is something good about journalism that people want to benefit from. So, we are constantly collaborating, we have a database, NUJ has a database and we just need to continue on this.”
Others in the delegation were Mr Umaru Tudunwada, Deputy President, Mr Mustapha Isa, Vice-President West and Mrs Mary Atolagbe, the General Secretary.
Others were Mrs Victoria Ibanga Treasurer, Mr Ken Ugbechie is Social/Publicity Secretary, Mr Austeen Elewodalu Assistant General Secretary.
Also in the delegation were Hajia Sani, Vice-President (North), Mr Samuel Egbala Vice-President (East), Mr Steve Nwosu and Mr Eze Anaba, Standing Committee members for the (West), Mr Ngwoke Ngwoke and Mr Freston Akpor Standing Committee members (East), Catherine Agbo and Husseina Ibrahim Standing Committee members (North).