After winning his second term in office in the 2019 general elections, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed 42 ministers to help him implement the agenda of his government for the people of Nigeria.
As the ministers clock their first year in office, there is a need to assess how far they have gone in actualising the policies and objectives of the government they serve.
The ministers, apart from taking directives from the president, also propose policies that may be accepted or rejected as the case may be by their principal during the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings.
While there have been knocks here and there for the Buhari administration within the first year of his second term in office, there also are reported milestones that have been achieved.
In X-raying the performance of the ministers in the last one year, PREMIUM TIMES, takes a look at the minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed.
Lai Mohammed, a former spokesperson of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), was first appointed information and culture minister in 2015. He was reappointed into the same office in 2019 by Mr Buhari.
So far, for Mr Mohammed, as far as his performance is concerned, it has been a mixed bag of faint praises and more knocks.
One of the faint praises, according to some industry experts, is that the Nigerian broadcast sector has undergone some truly beneficial reforms in the past one year.
Shortly after he resumed office, Mr. Mohammed announced that the federal government had approved extensive reforms in the broadcast industry. The reforms include the licensing of online radio and television stations.
With the reforms, there are more online radio and web TV stations thereby expanding the media space for more operators to come in according to some public analysts.
That said, the controversial reviewed Nigeria Broadcasting Code review tops the list of the minister’s negatives.
Also, as soon as he settled into office for the second time, Mr Mohammed gave a directive to Nigeria Broadcasting Commission(NBC) to formulate policies for the regulation of online media, regulation of international broadcasters beaming signals into Nigeria, and hate speech, among others.
On August 4th, 2020, the minister unveiled the Reviewed Broadcasting Code in Lagos.
In the reviewed code, which has been generating a lot of criticisms from stakeholders in the industry, fine for hate speech was raised from N500,00 to N5million; NBC was empowered to regulate exclusive content, enforce sharing of content and determine prices at which contents will be sold to sub-licensees by rights holders.
There is however one controversy about who reviewed the new code. While Mr Mohammed said it was the NBCwho reviewed it, the NBC is insisting that it was the minister who unilaterally reviewed it.
According to the chairman of the NBC board, Ikra Bilbis, the minister reviewed the code alone, which he said was against the law guiding the commission’s operations.
Digital Switch Over(DSO) yet to be implemented:
The much acclaimed Digital Switch Over(DSO) has not been implemented six years after it was launched in some six states.
Ordinarily, the DSO is meant to transform the television broadcasting system across the country from the current analog to digital mode.
The minister blamed the lack of implementation on some setbacks, assuring that stakeholders will hear from the government on the resumption of the rollout.
On the 4th of August, The minister said the federal government would “very soon’’ resume the rollout of Digital Switch Over (DSO).
According to the minister’s estimate, the DSO will yield $1.1 billion for Nigeria once completed.
Tourism and culture:
Last year, during a meeting with the Travel Journalists, Arts and Culture Writers Association of Nigeria, the minister assured that he did not pay more attention to the information sector than the tourism and culture sector during President Muhammadu Buhari’s first term.
The minister gave highlights of the programmes he would build on, saying he had already set the necessary legal framework to guide the tourism and culture sector.
He also said he would inaugurate the National Policy on Culture and National Policy on Tourism.
He said his ministry would finalise work on the Motion Picture Council of Nigeria (MOPICON) Bill and submit it to the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
“The plan is to create a proper regulatory environment for the sub-sector that has put Nigeria’s name on the global map, thus attracting the much-needed investment to the sector,” he said.
He promised to establish the Arts Endowment Fund, kick-start the implementation of the parts of the Tourism Master Plan that constitute low-hanging fruits, make the National Summit for Culture and Tourism a yearly affair, ensure a regular meeting of the Presidential Council on Tourism and also institute a unified National Celebration of the World Tourism Day.
Mr Mohammed also promised to organise a Regional Summit on Culture and Tourism, beginning from 2020.
Mr. Mohammed said that the ministry, working with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), would complete work on the establishment of Tourism Statistics and Tourism Satellite Account (TSA).
As far as the tourism and culture sector is concerned, all that has happened in the last one year is more or less a litany of promises with little actions to bring the promises into fruition.
While rating the minister’s performance, a knowledge management expert and communication specialist, Ariyo Atoye, said “he is a minister Nigerians have resigned to fate about what will eventually be his legacy.”
He said Mr Mohammed had not been able to change the perception of Nigerians about the government even though he is operating at a very difficult period.
“The perception is that the Buhari government is a failure, intolerant, incapable of uniting Nigerians. He has not been able to use the responsibility of his office to make Nigerians see that the Buhari government believes in the unity of Nigeria.
“Unfortunately anytime there is a kind of silence about the government, Lai Mohammed wants to impress, he has always come up with obnoxious policies or statement, for instance, the recent NBC code which has been widely condemned as obnoxious is a bad cap on his one year in office.”
He said the minister should be encouraged to look into all the press statements he had issued when he was in the opposition and let those press statements guide him about the Buhari administration.
“He should know that he has a constitutional responsibility is to side with the people and not necessarily looking for how to stifle free speech.
“Lai Mohammed is the advocate of the anti-social media bill, hate speech bill even though they are using some senators”
He alleged that Mr Mohammed is behind the smuggling of the clauses that are generating concerns in the new Companies Allied Matters Act(CAMA).
On information dissemination and management during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Atoye said the minister would have done well if he had developed a strategic communication system for the management of the pandemic.
He said the strategic communication system would have ensured that information reached the right target and got feedback from everyone’s point of view.
“There is no coherent national policy in terms of strategic communication, I don’t think the minister ever called the commissioner of information in the 36 states to say let us have a coherent intervention policy on how to inform the people.”
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