ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT, NIGERIA UNION OF JOURNALISTS, CHIEF CHRIS ISIGUZO AT THE 7TH TRIENNIAL DELEGATES CONFERENCE TAKING PLACE IN UMUAHIA, ABA STATE ON 7TH OCTOBER, 2021.
Let me welcome you all to the 7th Triennial Delegates Conference of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), taking place in Umuahia, the capital of God’s own state, Abia. Before proceeding with my address, permit me to most sincerely commend and appreciate our noble and cherished members of the Union from the states of the federation for not letting the Union down at its critical moments especially for taking the decisive decision to come to attend this conference in – spite of orchestrated and carefully planned attempts to truncate it. To you and our special guests, I pray God to reward you for your input and collective efforts towards ensuring the successful hosting of this conference without minding the encumbrances, stop gaps and wedge put in place by some self serving individuals to truncate this conference. It is my fervent prayer and believe that Nigerian journalists shall leave this conference more determined, united and stronger.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, the Triennial Delegates Conference affords the Union an opportunity for self appraisal with the aim of charting a new direction for the collective body of journalists in Nigeria as well as the election of a new set of members of the Central Working Committee (CWC) that will pilot the affairs of the Union for the next three years. I must say that unlike in the past, this year’s electioneering in the NUJ is unique just as it stands out, as most of the positions are returned unopposed owing to political realignment and engineering within the Union. It goes to show a clear direction charted by the outgoing led-CWC headed by my humble self. But for the action of a few, with the mindset that whatever does not go in their favour, must be destroyed, this conference deserves to be accorded a high premium in terms of acceptability and attendance.
Three years ago when I assumed office as National President of the NUJ, we were conscious of the fact that members of the Union needed an organization that works and meets their needs. Three years later, I stand boldly before my colleagues that entrusted their mandate to me, to state that certainly, things have change significantly for the better as the Union has moved from despair to hope, from difficulty in breathing to being alive once again, from a position of low morale of staff and members to reinvigoration and rejuvenation. In spite of the feat recorded, we are not unaware of the fact that it is still a journey in progress. It is on this note that I want to make a solemn pledge that members of the Greater Heights Team are committed and more determined than ever to move the Union forward by improving on our modest achievements which we placed before all of you in black and white during our campaigns that took us to most states in the six geo-political zones of the country which further afforded us the opportunity to interact with our members and deduce their needs and direction for the Union.
In our three years of dedicated and results oriented service, we are proud to reel out records of achievements that include several trainings and retraining of our members including bilateral foreign programmes. Specifically, the NUJ is engaging in training and retraining of Journalists with assistance from various development partners to build capacity of journalists to effectively bring to public attention humanitarian situations in the country in a fair manner, honestly, and constructively.
Our administration has also taken the issue of effective payment of staff salaries seriously just as we now have functional secretariat that is alive in responding to germane issues affecting our members. We have also Audited Accounts of the Union for the period of five years in addition to payment of accumulated years of ground and tenement rates, a development that has firmly secured the property of the Union sitting on about seven hectares of land in Abuja. We have equally pursued in concrete terms, the accreditation of our International Institute of Journalism (IIJ) with the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE). Discussions have reached an advanced stage towards this goal just as the Union is working assiduously to put in place needed requirements for the accreditation.
Similarly, owing to our prudent management of resources, our administration successfully funded and hosted the meetings of the National Executive Council (NEC), of the Union twice without contribution from any organization. It goes to show that the NUJ is steadily getting to where it ought to be and very soon, we would be able to say, here we are. This is in addition to the fact that we kept to our constitutional mandate of holding NEC meetings as at when due. You shall be availed copies of our SCORE CARD of achievements to enable you all further peruse through with a view to have an appreciable understanding of our efforts in charting a new direction for the Union.
While, we were traversing the country seeking for a renewal of mandate for a second term, we came face to face with certain realities confronting our members as they relate to their welfare and professionalism thus, the need to be adequately addressed from different angles and directions. These include, but not limited to the following; functional and conducive working environment, interference in professionalism, quackery and the need to distinguish social media influencers from journalists, multiple dimensions of threats and harassment of journalists by politicians and public officers who are no longer comfortable with being made accountable to the public and those parading themselves as journalists when they are not. The NUJ in the coming administration is going to take a critical look at this monster trying to rare its head before it dents the image of practitioners. The good news is the fact that our automated identity card is already addressing the issue of quacks and fake media practitioners. Any individual who wants to belong to the NUJ must adhere to the provisions of the Constitution with respect to membership.
Taking into cognizance, recent happenings within the Union in which some of our members embarked on a voyage of FORUM SHOPPING from one court to the other to procure all manners of injunctions against the NUJ without first of all attempting to explore internal conflict mechanisms as provided by the constitution, is no longer acceptable. The Union is now stating clearly and boldly that our collective interests shall at all times supersede that of any individual, no matter how highly placed. In this wise, the established organs of the Union shall henceforth take appropriate action against any erring member without let or hindrance. The posture where some people assume that they are above the rules and procedures of the Union can no longer be tolerated.
Towards this end, the incoming Central Working Committee would soon be hosting a constitutional conference to critically review our constitution with a view to addressing observed lapses and lacuna.
Before I end this address, let me commend the renewed determination by the Federal Government to end the protracted insecurity challenges ravaging some parts of the country, especially the insurgency in the North East and banditry, kidnapping in the North West and other acts of criminality that constitute a threat to the development of our nation.On this note, the NUJ equally commend the courage and professionalism of our Armed Forces and appeal to Nigerians to unite against terrorism and other acts of insecurity rather than resorting to issues of politics that may not have any positive bearing in the fight against these evils.
While we appreciate the fact that government has adopted new approaches that will tackle insecurity in the country, we urge that additional strategies be adopted to address the specific political, economic, and social challenges that encourage these security problems in general and the potential solutions that reduce them as the most reliable way forward.
Similarly, we encourage the government to listen to suggestions from well meaning citizens who provide credible and workable alternative options in dealing with the devastating security situation and urge government to be tolerant in dealing with the anger and frustration of the citizens.
The significance of the media as an effective tool for solving security challenges in the country cannot be wished away. It is in this regard that we frown at the various comments of some highly placed Government officials that accuse the media of over-blowing security challenges in the country before the international community. We caution that lack of adequate information can, at any stage of a conflict, make people desperate, restless and easy to manipulate. However, there is also the need for caution on the part of media practitioners particularly in the South-East to be more circumspect in the news they disseminate to the public concerning the insecurity in the region. The news being churned out to the other parts of the country with regards to the insecurity situation in the region is far from the reality on ground.
We equally call on Journalists to be careful not to be tempted into propagating fake news by ensuring proper and adequate checks before stories are written and transmitted for public consumption. Be that as it may, the NUJ insists that Leaders should be held accountable to the people by the media through objective criticisms devoid of any sentiments and bias. This is the only way we can help sustain our democracy.
Let me on behalf of Nigerian Journalists assure of our commitment to continue to protect the interests of Nigeria and Nigerians through the trilogy functions of the media as well as using the media space to set agenda for our great country.
Nigeria’s efforts at ensuring international best practices in the broadcast industry are not very impressive as the nation regrettably lags behind in this regard. Stakeholders have repeatedly called for a complete review of the digitization process specifically in the area of legal framework as the only document available remains the Government White paper of 2012. This White Paper does not capture issues of contemporary technological development and it is deficient in addressing decade long challenges that have emerged since its issuance. Similarly, the collection of Digital Access Fee is complicated.
As critical stakeholder and major player in the media industry, the NUJ is demanding for the immediate stoppage of the collection of this Fee while the amount so far collected should be accounted for. We call on Government to be more proactive in dealing with these problems.
In the same vein, we appeal to the Federal Government to support the on-going drive for a Media Stabilisation Fund to assist ailing media organisations in the country.
In line with Section 22 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), which empowers the media to hold the government accountable to the people, the NUJ calls on the Federal Government to make budgetary provision for a National Media Tour to enable practitioners assess the performance of governance in the country. By so doing, the fourth estate of the realm will be seen to bridging the gap between the government and the governed in line with the spirit and letters of our Constitution.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, immediately after this opening ceremony, Delegates gathered in Umuahia will be going straight into a Business session where a new policy direction for the Union shall be formulated and approved by the Conference. Such policies shall form our focus and direction for the next three years. We promise to consolidate on the gains made in the past three years. We equally want to stand before this august gathering to declare and assure that we shall not fail you.
Once again, let me thank you all for your rapt attention. God bless you all.