“It’s to SUCH HATE? That our Presidency deployed our public resources to hire US firm…”
A former Minister of Education, Obiageli Ezekwesili, on Thursday, condemned the Goodluck Jonathan administration’s attempt to smear the image of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign through a foreign Public Relations firm, Levick.
Ms. Ezekwesili in a tweet through her Twitter handle, @obyezeks, said it was hateful for the presidency to hire the PR firm to help government tag Nigerian citizens as terrorists.
“It’s to SUCH HATE? That our Presidency deployed our public resources to hire US firm @LEVICK to label INNOCENT CITIZENS “terrorists”??” she tweeted.
The former minister said she doubted it when she first learnt that the PR firm was helping the Federal Government spread lies that the #BringBackOurGirls group was a franchise until the spokesperson for the State Security Services, Marilyn Ogar, said so.
The federal government paid the PR firm owned by Richard Levick $1.2 million (N195 million) to help manage what many consider government’s inept handling of the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls by the Boko Haram terrorist group.
According to The Hill, an American newspaper specialised in covering the American congress, the contract was awarded to help change “international and local media narrative” surrounding government’s efforts to rescue the girls.
Details contained in the contract document obtained by The Hill showed that the firm would also be “assisting the government’s efforts to mobilise international support in fighting Boko Haram as part of the greater war on terror”.
The firm also promised to assist the government in effecting “real change” in Nigeria.
Mr. Levick was expected to work with Jared Genser, a human rights attorney, who has also worked for notable personalities such as South African Nobel Peace Prize winner, Desmond Tutu; and Burmese pro-democracy advocate, Aung Suu Kyi.
The team would publicise the “President Goodluck Jonathan Administration’s past, present and future priority to foster transparency, democracy and the rule of law throughout Nigeria.”
According to the contract, Levick would be paid $75,000 (about N11.6 million) per month for its effort plus extra cost for advertisements, video production and website development. This would be done through an unnamed state-owned media agency.
The company would get an additional fee of $22,500 (N3.48million) if an associate of the company travelled to Nigeria.
An associate of Mr. Genser’s company, Perseus Strategies, would get $25,000 (N3.87million) per month as retainer.
Ms. Ezekwesili, however, advised Mr. Jonathan to take actions that would rebuild citizen’s trust rather than engage in such frivolous spending.
“My FREE image laundering advice to our Presidency is to take actions that would rebuild citizens TRUST. ACT to #BringBackOurGirls CONCRETELY,” she tweeted.