By Stephen Ubanna
When Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, had promised a year ago to embark on capacity building as part of efforts to build a world-class maritime sector the for the country.
However, not many people took him serious. This is because past Chief Executive Officers, CEO, of the Maritime Regulatory Agency had made such promises but failed to keep it up. The NIMASA, boss may have known what he wants and how to go about the capacity building initiative when he Launched the agency’s e-Library at the Nigerian Maritime Resource Development Centre, NMRDC, in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve center.
He may have been encouraged to take on capacity as one of the programme to be implemented by his Administration because of his belief that a ‘’knowledge –based industry have opportunities’’ and therefore, ‘’ there was need to encourage research to enable the nation’s maritime sector get to its full potential’’.
This may have informed why he embraced the proposal brought by the Nigerian Army School of Public Relations and Information, NASPRI, which has Aliyu Yusuf, a Colonel, as the acting Commandant , to midwife the training Programme for Maritime Journalists and Public Relations officers in the sector.
The army Colonel, may have convinced the NIMASA Director General to handle the training programme for the agency when he restated the fact that as an agency which plays a leading role on the Integrated National Security and Water Ways Infrastructure, popular, the Deep Blue Project, domiciled in the agency. Note that the government had spent $193 million to procured sea and air maritime security assets comprising of 16 armoured vehicles for coastal patrol, 17 fast moving boats, Two Special Mission Vessels, Two Special Mission aircrafts and four armoured vehicles, meaning that both establishments should work together towards achieving the goal of national security and development.
It was not surprising why the two parties signed a working agreement for the training programme for maritime Journalists and the sector Public Relations officers last May. In signing the working agreement, Jamoh, had described the Army as a strategic partner in the agency search for maritime security, stressing that ‘’the establishment plays a critical role in the Deep Blue Project’’. We have a responsibility to manage security information in ways that would engender confidence in the polity and not endanger the country, he had said.
Informed sources told The Value News that the NIMASA Director General, had planned to set up a Media Academy for’’ the Training of Professionals that report the nation’s maritime industry’’. The intervention of NASPRI, may have killed the dream as he was said to have directed the agency’s Public Relations Department ‘’’to come up with a robust curriculum and information sharing method that would serve NIMASA and the Army in the implementation of their mandates’’.
Seven months after the capacity building agreement was signed between the two parties, in Lagos, NNASPRI had kick-started with the training OF 40 Maritime Journalists, and some Public Relations officers in the industry on Tuesday, November 30, 2021.. The resource persons were said to have been drawn from the Academia, Institute of Public Relations and the Media. Among the resource persons engaged by NASPRI, were Abigail Ogwezz-Ndisika, Professor and Lecturer at the University of Lagos, Olunifesi Suraj, a, also University Don, Yusuf, Marce Anyanwu, a Public Relations Practitioner, Yusuf, NASPRI, Commandant and Ray Echebiri, a veteran Journalist and Publisher.
In declaring the Workshop open, an elated Jamoh, who was ably represented by Obon Essien, the Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, had said that the training Ptrogramme is part of the series that have been lined in the next couple of months to Train and retrain the Maritime Journalists. He may have spoken the mind of the NIMASA Director General when he stated that as a maritime nation ‘’there was the need create the awareness of the country’s maritime strength to the international Community and Foreign investors’’.
Note that the resource persons presentation had centered around the one day Workshop topic,’’An Assessment of the Pattern of Reportag, among Nigerian Maritime Journalists : Implications for National Preservation of National Security and Foreign Direct Investment, FDI’’.
Anyanwu, a Public Relations expert who had made a presentation, ‘’Preserving National Security and Attraction Foreign Direct Investment, of FDI, Through Umbiased Maritime Reportage’’, may have set the tone of the training. He had stated ‘’the importance protecting the nation’s security.
He cited an instance of a Work Shop he had attended some years ago in the North American country of the United states,US, which was fully paid for by the Participants. He disclosed that a certain stage of the discussions at the Workshop, the Non- Americans were asked to leave the hall as the organisers had said that they have issues of national importance to discuss which was not for the third party ear. The Americans, he said were protecting their national interest. They were said to have called after the closed door meeting of the American participants at the Workshop on their national issue had ended to continue from where they had stopped.
He would want the Nigerian Maritime Journaalists and indeed, Nigerian Journalists in general to adopt Nwosu ‘’’vulture reporting hypothesis’’to show imited that media coverage and reportage of cases, issues, stressing that crisis is metaphorically similar to a vulture’s behaviour’’.
He had said that in taking the decision to publish a story, the Editor has to first have to ascertain whether ‘’the story is true, can it be proved to be true or whether the story will affect national security or erode the confidence of those who may be planning to invest in the country. He had said that preservation of the national security through unbiased reportage will attract FDI, into the country. Although, he had listed lack of openness, high inflation rate in the economy, poor economic decisions of the policy makers,, insecurity, poor infrastructural facilities and Corruption as some of the major causes discouraging FDI, into the country, he had said that the Maritime Journalist could still turn the tide to attract FDI into the country by ‘’developing the reporting skill to be able write accurately and informatively’’. He noted that the writing skill could only be developed through Training, experience or both, to identify sources, plan story search and give good news to the readers both within and outside the country and subsequently open door for FDI, into the country.
Proffessor Ogwezz-Ndisika, a University Don, had stressed the need for Reporters to imbibe the ethics of Journalism of balanced reporting, protection of sources, fair, unbiased, accurate, factual and professional in reporting’’ instead of ‘’digging into people’s privacy’’. Speaking on Ethics, Skills and Personal Qualities to improve Maritime Reportage, he urged the Maritime Journalists not to take advantage of challenges faced in the industry to undermine the country’s security and thus drive away potential Foreign Investors into the country. The University Don, who could not hide her feelings had said that Maritime Journalists have an onerous responsibility to protect to protect the industry instead of being sensational in their reports. Her message was very clear that we have no other country other Nigeria and therefore, we should have at’’ the back of our mind any time we are doing a story on the Industry, which have international appeal, to ensure that we protect the national interest’’.
The University of Lagos Professor of Mass Communication, had listed some of the unethical practices of the Journalist which must be avoided when doing a story on nation’s maritime industry which has to ‘’to do with conflict of interest, use of offensive and indecent materials, character assassination, bribery, psychophancy , among others. He believes that if Nigerian Maritime Journalists can avoid these pitfalls, it will go a long way to refocus Foreign Investors attention on Nigeria, especially now that all attentions are now on development of the Blue Economy to take over from oil as the main stay of the nation’s economy .
’. Colonel Yusuf, the Commandant of NASPRI, will would the Authorities to understand that the practice of Journalism today is different from what it was in the past. Hear him: The Information environment in today’s world has tremendously changed due to development in information and Communication technology. He noted that the Communication technology has given rise ‘’ to new Communication concept such as producers, blogs, citizen journalists and many more, which have broadened the scope of communication’’.
The Army Colonel while speaking on ‘’Narrative and Messaging’’, had said that ‘’narrative was a very powerful of dissemination of information to the public which could yield immediate results which would require planning , evaluation and effective Communication in order to achieve success ’’by interested parties. Appealing to Public Relations Officers to build trust for their establishments, he noted that ‘’proper understanding of message formulation, target audience analysis and effective understanding of the environment is necessary’’.
Suraj, also a Mass Communication Lecturer at UniLag, may have sent a message to the Authorities, who claim to be experts that’’it is no longer the case’’, stating that with the advent of the Social Media ‘’one’s friends, Colleagues, and others, have become more trusted and influential’’, describing it as a horizontal model of Communication.
He asserted that the Social Media cannot be washed away with ease or gagged by the Authorities. This is because’’ it is open to Conversations and Dialogue, Relationship Development, Multiple Voices, Getting the message to stakeholders, Social Media Press Release, Video News release, Internet Social networking Community influence rs and Live Steaming’’.
He may have shocked Nigerians when he averred that ‘’the Social Media and Smart Phones have changed the way maritime incidents are reported’’. According to him ‘’the Social Media is no longer just user generated’’, stressing that’’it is publisher- driven and the publishers can be anywhere-on the shore, another on the vessel and on board vessels or rigs. The University Don, was said to advise he Authorities, including NIMASA, to avoid creating a dangerous information vacuum’’.
He reiterated that in a ‘’digital world, ‘’information, particular, bad news, can spread globally within seconds and opinions are formed very quickly’’, noting that ‘’once they are formed , they are difficult to change’’. This may have informed why he has suggested that the NIMASA should have a Management Team that will also serve as news sources instead of leaving out everything to the Director General and the Public Relations Department officers to handle. He maintains that ‘’the Social Media remains the way to go in the dissemination of information in the world today, insisting that ‘’there is a need to reposition the country’s Blue Economy to attract FDI’’.