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Media has key role in tackling Nigeria’s insecurity – NCC boss

...kicks off in Port Harcourt

Umar Garba Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has urged media practitioners to collaborate with the government in addressing the insecurity in the country.

The NCC boss said this at the 17th edition of the All Nigerian Editors Conference which was held on Thursday with the theme: “Media in Times of Crisis: Resolving Conflict, Achieving Consensus,” at the Nigeria Airforce (NAF), Abuja.

According to him, one of the functions of media forms is situating itself within the social responsibility theory.

This function is in line with the provision in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which charges the media with the role of watchdog of the society.

The watchdog role means the industry has the responsibility to watch over all segments of the society – the government and the governed, as well as every institution in every sector.

In the pre-colonial time, the media were clearly in the frontline of the struggle for the nation’s independence. Not only were many of the nationalists also journalists, but they also founded newspapers, some of which are still in operation today.

As one of the most important institutions for the promotion of democratic values, the media have arguably been playing a very important role in building the culture of peace in the country.

In contrast, the media have also been accused of amplifying conflicts in some cases, making it difficult for society to reach a consensus in crisis time.

Generally, conflict is usually viewed as a hindrance to reaching agreements and disruptive to peaceful relationships and coexistence in society.

The challenge, Danbatta said, is the creation of an understanding in all in that conflict or different opinions regarding proposals, is to be expected and acceptable.

In the long run, objections and criticisms can be heard not as attacks, not as attempts to defeat a proposal, but as a concern which, when resolved, will make the proposal stronger.

According to Danbatta, the Commission has been playing a very important role through its 112 Emergency Number managed by its Emergency Communications Centres (ECC) established across the country, towards contributing to efforts by government, the media and other stakeholders in addressing conflict situations or emergencies in Nigeria.

It is generally acknowledged that security of life and property is a prerequisite for progress in any society or nation. Individuals, both great and small, often encounter emergency situations that pose security threats at different times in life.

However, it has become a common occurrence for innocent lives to be lost in minor emergencies which ordinarily could have been averted if help was timely available.

This is what is obtained in developed societies with the ‘911’ service, with the United States of America being one of the best-known examples of an emergency assistance number.

Consequently, the NCC embarked on the establishment of ECCs across the states to offer a lifeline to citizens in times of distress.

Emergency Response Agency (ERA) which include the Police, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Fire and Ambulance Services, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Nigeria Centre of Disease Control (NCDC) and so on, was provided by the ECC to enable members of the public access help by dialing 112, which is Nigeria’s emergency assistance number, from any network.

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Currently, 23 states in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have functional ECCs each.

This regulatory intervention has had a positive impact on the lives of Nigerians. The Centres have been transforming lives and helping many citizens in handling emergencies and serious crisis situations through instant dispatch of emergency calls received, to Response Agencies.

The Commission is set to activate ECCs in nine more states, with a successful projection to inaugurate similar projects in the remaining four states by the end of 2022, thereby having an ECC per state and in the FCT, in line with the Federal Government’s directive.

In the early stage of COVID-19 pandemic crisis in Nigeria, over 1,500 calls bordering on COVID-19-related issues were received and processed by the Centres.

The Centres provided a platform for members of the public to seek life-saving information and support with regards to COVID-19 related cases by dialing ‘112’ from any of the networks.

More remarkably, Nigerians have become more aware of and are using the 122 Emergency Number.

Between January and August, 2021, about 34 million calls were made by Nigerians, who were seeking succor during emergencies or under any circumstance posing security issue and unrest within their communities.

Recently, the Senate, Nigeria’s national upper legislative chamber, passed a bill to establish the Nationwide Emergency Communications Service, in recognition of the centrality of NCC’s emergency center projects to the national economy.

The lawmakers approved ‘112’ as the primary nationwide toll-free emergency number in the country. This legislative move has further strengthened the legal status of the 112 Emergency Number, in addition to the legal provision for the NCC to embark on the project, as contained in the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA), 2003.

During the event, some recommendations that will strengthen the media’s role in being socially responsible in times of crisis to ensure effective conflict resolution were made.

“First, I urge the editors and media managers to play a greater mediatory role by entrenching a peace media system and building a culture of peace in today’s conflict-ridden world. Also, because most newspapers or broadcast media also have online versions, the Nigerian Communications Commission strongly advocates responsible use of the Internet to carry out personal, business and other professional activities in the way and manner as to promote unity, peaceful co-existence and cohesion in the society,” Danbatta said.

Recommendations were also made on effective training of media professionals on specialised reporting areas such as conflict/crisis reporting on a continuous basis.

The Commission aims at constantly upgrading and modernizing the ECC infrastructure across the country to improve efficiency of the facility in meeting the needs and expectations of Nigerian citizens in times of emergencies, conflict or any form of crisis.

“Let me emphasize that as the regulator of the nation’s telecoms industry, the NCC will continue to drive implementation of various national digital economy policies and regulatory frameworks aimed at deepening digitization. This is to democratise communication for the citizenry towards building the Nigeria of our dream,” Danbatta said.

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