Permit me to start by commending the Nigeria Governors’ Forum for organizing this conference for the media handlers of the Executive Governors. This is a well-conceived event and could not have been more timely, coming as the political landscape is set to become agog again with electioneering campaigns, which will be a time for stock-taking.
2. You, the media handlers, are always in the eye of the storm – and you will remain there. You are the ones who are daily called upon to, more than anyone else, project the achievements of your principals and defend their actions. I am aware that the average government information manager faces enormous responsibilities and cannot afford to sleep with two eyes closed as he or she continuously faces those who will stop at nothing to denigrate government. This is why I will like to appeal to your bosses, the Governors, to provide you with adequate resources so you can more effectively carry out your duties.
Of course, any effort, such as this conference, which is aimed at making your job better and adequately preparing you for the tough task you face, is welcome.
3. Let me be straight: This is the most difficult time for anyone to find himself or herself in your position. Why? Because in addition to working with a tight budget, you face the double tragedy of disinformation and fake news, buoyed to a large extent by the advent of Social Media. Never before have these ”evil twins” of disinformation and fake news permeated the public space as they have now and, make no mistakes about it, they have become potent weapons in the hands of naysayers. Sadly, they will be the biggest obstacle facing you from now till the 2019 general elections, whether you believe it or not.
4. In recent days, you have all seen the dangers posed, not just to you but even the general public, by those who have chosen to deploy disinformation and fake news as a weapon of choice. First, they created unnecessary panic in the society by claiming that Monkey Pox resulted from the Federal Government’s deliberate injection of people with the virus in certain states. We had hardly dispelled that when they claimed that the military, which is going beyond the call of duty to support the civilian populace, has been injecting school children with Monkey Pox, forcing many parents across a number of states to withdraw their children from school for days. Imagine the implication of this on the affected children’s education and health. Now, the disinformation is that ahead of the forthcoming election in Anambra, the government has been providing IPOB uniform to some people to cause mayhem, so they can in turn blame IPOB, and that many roads leading to Anambra will be closed before and after the elections, hence they advised Anambra residents to stay at home and not come out for the election. This is all disinformation, pure and simple. There is no such plan.
5. Now, going hand in hand with disinformation and fake news is the new strategy of the naysayers to label the achievements of the government of the day as ‘propaganda and lies’ in order to discredit them. It is for you, at your level, to use concrete facts to showcase the achievements of your principals. Nigerians are brilliant and
discerning, and won’t be taken in by such deliberate denigration. But they also need facts and figures.
6. For our Administration, our achievements are there for all to see. We are delivering in the broad areas that formed the plank of our policies: Security, fight against corruption and the economy, which includes the massive provision of infrastructure, ease of doing business and agriculture, just to mention a few.
7. Those who accused this Administration of ‘propaganda and lies’ in the fuel supply sector, for example, did not tell Nigerians that whereas they paid between 800 billion and 1.3 trillion Naira as ‘subsidy’ yearly in their time, without making the products available even at regulated prices, this Administration is not paying any
subsidy, yet all products are currently available at competitive prices and fuel queues are now history. In their time, they paid subsidy of 3.7 billion Naira DAILY in 2011; 2.2 billion Naira DAILY in 2012 and 2013, and 2.5 billion Naira DAILY in 2014, all for products that were never available.
8. Those who accused this government of ‘propaganda and lies’ also said we have not achieved anything in the power sector. Comment is free, facts are sacred, as they say. When this Administration assumed office on 29 May 2015, available power on the grid totalled 2,690MW, transmission capacity was around 5,000MW and distribution capacity was 4,000MW. As at 4 September 2017, the available power that can be put on the grid was 6,619MW; the transmission capacity was simulated at 6,700 MW (up from 5,000 MW in 2015) but the distribution capacity was 4,600 MW, which was what was put on the grid. On September 12, 2017, production of power reached an all-time level of 7,001MW.
9. In recent times, we have recovered 100MW from the damaged Afam IV Power Plant which was inoperative since January 2015, while the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) has energized the Jebba-Kainji 2nd 330KV line and the 2nd Ajaokuta-Abuja 330KV line, both of which were inoperative since 2015. These are concrete and verifiable
achievements, and they did not happen by accident, but by a deliberate effort encapsulated in the Power Sector Recovery Programme.
10. It is an irony that those who presided over a paltry budget, all barely funded, of 18 billion Naira for roads, 5 billion Naira for power and 1.8 billion Naira for Housing in 2015, their last budget, are now accusing those who spent 198.25 billion Naira on roads, 91.2 billion Naira on power and 71.559 billion Naira on housing in the following year of non-achievement? Because of the increased spending in these areas, the massive debts owed to contractors are being settled so they can recall workers who were laid off and re-open closed work sites. As a matter of fact, during the implementation of the 2016 budget, we paid 103 construction companies executing 192 projects, and they, in turn, employed 17,749 people directly and 52,000 people indirectly in works. So far this year, 47.169 billion
Naira has been paid to 62 contractors working on149 projects to continue work on roads and bridges and keep people at work. Similar payments are being made to supervising consultants and to contractors in Housing and Power Sectors of the Ministry.
11. In the area of the Economy, is it ‘propaganda and lies’ that headline Inflation has now fallen for the eighth consecutive month (February to September 2017); that foreign exchange reserves are up to $32 billion, from $24 billion a year ago: that oil production is at nearly 2 million barrels per day, a significant improvement from 2016 when it was mostly below a million; that Home-grown School Feeding Programme is now being implemented in 17 States, benefiting more than 3 million public primary school children and more than 30,000 cooks across 20,000 schools (ask the benefitting school children and they will tell you they have been eating nutritious foods, not propaganda and lies); that close to 200,000 youths are now benefiting from the N-Power Programme, which recruits unemployed graduates to work as teachers, agricultural extension workers, and health extension workers; that the Government Enterprise & Empowerment Programme (GEEP), which provides micro-credit to farmers, traders, and artisans, now has in excess of 1 million beneficiaries, with women accounting for 56% of that number, and that at about 1.8 billion dollars, the capital inflows in the second quarter of 2017 were almost double the $908 million in the first quarter.
12. If our achievements are based on ‘propaganda and lies’, as they claim, why is our agricultural revolution achieving so much success: We have commissioned the 120,000 MT per annum WACOT Rice Mill in Argungu, Kebbi State. We have commissioned the 60,000 MT per annum Edo State Fertilizer Company Limited. What about the commissioning of OLAM’s 750,000 MT per annum Integrated Poultry Facility in Kaduna State? Do you know that 15 moribund Fertilizer Blending Plants have now been revived and in operation across Nigeria, under the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative, creating 50,000 direct jobs and 70,000 indirect jobs?
13. In the area of security, when we assumed office in 2015, Boko Haram was active in at least 10 states, could stroll into Abuja at a time and target of their own choosing to cause maximum havoc, in addition to holding territories and collecting taxes. Today, Boko Haram has been so degraded that it lacks the capacity to carry out any organized attack, while also increasingly losing the capacity to even attack soft targets. Importantly, Boko Haram no longer holds any territory. The same vigour is being used to address the herdsmen-farmers’ clash, kidnapping for ransom and other crimes.
14. Disinformation and fake news will not cease overnight. Those opposed to you will seek to denigrate your achievements. They will call you names and accuse you of propaganda and lies. But the antidote is to remain focused, refused to be distracted and to use facts and figures – as I have done here – to counter the purveyors of
disinformation and fake news. In the end, the truth will prevail.
15. While wishing you a successful conference, I thank you for your kind attention.