Keynote Address delivered by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at the capacity building workshop for strategic communication liaison officers at Sheraton Hotel Abuja, On Wednesday, 26 July, 2017
Goodmorning Ladies and Gentlemen, permits me to thank the organizers of this workshop, the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP) for inviting me to speak at the opening. The workshop, with the theme, ‘’mainstream strategic communications across Government for National Security’’, is expected to build the capacity of Strategic Communication Liaison Officers (SC/LO) across Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), including strengthening participants’ capacity in audience and content analysis, developing, monitoring and evaluating communication strategies.
2. The Role of Information Officers in Strengthening Government Communication is relevant to achieving national strategic objectives. By the mandate of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, the Ministry is to manage the image, reputation and promote the culture of the people and Government of Nigeria through a dynamic public information system that facilitate access by the citizens and the global community to credible and timely information about our Nation. Traditionally, Information Officers are at the center of our effort to discharge this mandate. Therefore, the role ofInformation Officers is to disseminate accurate and timely information about government policies, programmes and activities. This role ensures that our national image and message are communicated to audiences at home and abroad
3. Since the beginning of this administration, we have engaged with key stakeholders like Traditional Rulers; Faith-based Organizations; Civil Society Organizations; Women and Youth Groups as well as the media to communicate Government policies and programmes. Information officers continue to play critical roles in this process.
4. For example, we engage through town hall meetings across the six geo-political zones to inform Nigerians and the international community about our programmes and to listen to criticism, feedback and advice from the citizens. Through these meetings, we are able to shape policy and improve on delivering our promises to the people. The town hall meetings, undoubtedly, have yielded positive results with the kind of direct feedback we received from Nigerians. These interactions with Nigerians underscore the importance this administration attaches to the people in carrying them along in the task of governance.
5. Undeniably, technological advances have redefined the media landscape and the way Information Officers communicate government activities to the public. As a result, the Ministry is leveraging on various Social Media platforms like Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype, Twitter and Instagram, just to mention a few, to reach our audiences, especially the youths. These Social Media platforms also provide unique opportunity for the Ministry to aggregate and gauge public opinions and perceptions of government.
6. But for the Information Officers, the Social Media is a double-edged sword. Whereas it allows them to reach their audiences much faster, it also poses a lot of challenges, in particular because the Social Media is blurring the line between fact and fiction, between real news and fake news.How the Information Officers overcome this challenge will go a long way in determining his or her success.
7. It is relevant to mention that on 15 December 2016, we launched a Federal Government Information APP (FGN-iAPP) as part of strategic communications activities to bridge communication gap and bring our people a click away from Government. The Resident Information Officers (RIOs) across MDAs generate content which are analysed and uploaded unto the Information APP on a daily basis.
8. Faced with the prevalence of fake news, we took action by preparing Information Officers with the skills to identify and counter such fake news through engagement and counter narrative. Information Officers are assigned to monitor both online and offline news media to identify such fake news and develop timely and credible counter narratives to respond to such fake news.
9. Our multi-media “Change Begins with Me’’ Campaign, which was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari on 8 September, 2016,is an attitudinal change campaign aimed at achieving a paradigm shift in the way we do things as Nigerians. The role of Information Officers and Resident Information Officers (RIOs) across government MDAs, as change agents in driving this campaign, cannot be underestimated.
10. In conclusion, this Workshop fits well with our strategic intent to empower Information Officers with the right tools and skills to convey Government message. I believe that this Workshop will serve as a major step towards mainstreaming strategic communication in support of national security.
11. I wish you all very fruitful deliberations, and I thank you for your kind attention.