THE MEDIA, NATIONAL SECURITY: THE INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE, ETAL.
By Emeka Oraetoka
On the occasion of the launch of Daar Communications Plc Direct-to- Home Digital satellite Pay TV, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua cautioned the media about reports that might endanger the security of the nation. From President Yar’Adua’s admonition, it appears presidency is aware of the subversive activities of some Nigeria media outfits, and other foreign based internet information dissemination outlets. The question here is what constitutes national interest and security? Will it be safe to conclude that a section of Nigeria print media is guilty of subversion of national interest and security, considering the misguided manner in which they have reported some issues, concerning the President and Commander-in- Chief of the Armed Forces, the Police and the person of the Inspector General of Police, as well as other public office holders in Nigeria?
When the police introduced e-recruitment to check a lot of fraudulent activities associated with manual recruitment exercise, like “money for employment” syndrome, fake certificate presentation, employment of persons with questionable character etc, associated with the manual recruitment system, a section of the print media went to town questioning the integrity of the company that won the contract for the e-recruitment exercise. Agreed that it is their right to know and report everything about the e-recruitment, it is also important they tell the public what Nigeria , as a country stands to gain from the e-recruitment exercise. The question is, with e-recruitment, are identified problems associated with manual recruitment system likely to abate? If so, what motivated the base criticism from a section of the print media? The intriguing aspect of their criticism is that other security outfits as well as the military had employed the e-recruitment system to employ officers in the past, and present, none of these media outfits raised eyebrow; the only rational conclusion from their attacks is pure subversion.
Again, in October 2008, the Mike Okiro led police leadership introduced new Identification Card for the police, which will also serve as smart cards for police banking transactions. Okiro reportedly said that, the new cards if introduced would provide enough security to the salary of policemen nationwide, and has been structured in a way to provide confidentiality to the individual police officers and men. Okiro further said that the smart card would be used in any bank automated teller machine (ATM), to be installed also in police barracks and other strategic points. To cap it all, he said, “since we have noticed that some police pay officers shortchange some of you, it has become imperative to use this method to forestall such activities since they will no longer be required to have anything to do with you directly as far as your money is concerned”. Soon after the introduction of this digital ID cards, these print media, lived up to their subversive best, this time, asking the Inspector General of Police to resign his position, as according to them, the IGP said he did not to know the number of policemen he has. In-fact, they made this call via editorial comments in their various Newspapers. Though some print outfits hailed the move by IGP, insisting that the introduction of the smart cards will go a long way in eliminating ghost policemen in police force. These Newspapers agreed that the introduction of the smart cards will eradicate impersonation and associated frauds. Many rational minds have reasoned that those benefiting from short payment of policemen in the past might have sponsored the subversive comment from the anti Okiro print outfits that credited the IGP with the comment he never made. Anti President Yar’ Adua forces have also been linked as sponsors of those base criticism of the IGP.
The recent address by the Inspector General of Police in a conference with all senior police officers from the rank of commissioners of police and above that took place in Zamfara State from 18 th – 21 st January, 2009, attracted probably the most subversive of reporting from a section of Nigerian print media. An extract from an editorial comment in a particular Newspaper stated that the IGP, while addressing a monthly meeting of senior police officers in Gusau, Zamfara State announced that the Nigerian police force would henceforth apply the principle of “rub-my-back-I-rub your back” in the performance of its duties. “State governors that are stingy, “Okiro said, “would get stingy policing. The writer of the editorial went further to say that the IGP”--- went on to mandate commissioners of police to approach state governors and local government chairmen to request all manners of support. The editorial then opined that the directive is an attempt legitimizes bribery and corruption………….
The reaction of the Inspector General of Police on the “bribe for security” comment highlighted the danger inherent in sensational reporting of event from the print media. A statement from the force spokesman, Emmanuel Ojukwu, reads; “the police boss said the three level of government have always voluntarily help the Force with logistics in its effort at crime prevention and control. “At no time were these responsible government arms pressurized, coerced or blackmailed into making contribution to policing”. He added that the prominence given to the publication is capable of weakening the voluntary determination of state governors and local government chairmen to strengthen the fight against crime in their various domains by donating logistic support to the police. “It is targeted at severely affecting our crime prevention and control posture”.
It would have been very hard to understand that true position of issue if the vexed editorial did not say that the IGP made the comment while addressing a monthly meeting of senior police officers in Gusau………….The address in question as presented by Mike Okiro, and sourced from the internet; clearly did not contain the bribe for security comment, either directly or indirectly. In-fact, the paragraphing of the address itself was numbered from 1 – 10 with each paragraph containing distinct item. For instance, item (2) on the address talked about e-policing or the need for officers to be computer literate to stem the tide of increase in hi-tech criminality. Item (3) talked about proactive intelligence gathering, and so on. In-fact a through combing of the address did not point to any suggestion to support the vexed editorial comment.
Another fact that suggested malice on the part of the reporter that covered the event in Gusau on behalf of Leadership Newspapers, is the fact that he is probably the only person that read “bribe for security” meaning to Mike Okiro’s address on that day; other News paper reporters saw the address from another angle. Clearly, negative reports like these may not encourage the fight for Freedom of Information Bill, currently on at the National Assembly, besides; these reports could constitute clear threat to national security and interest.
It is probably in the light of these negative reports that President Yar’Adua admonished the media to pay greater attention to national interest and security in reporting event in the country. It is however, hoped that proper apology will go to the IGP from the offending print outfit, particularly, from the reporter that covered the event for Leadership Newspaper in Gusau–Zamfara State. The management of Leadership Newspaper should not allow reporters to soil the hard earned reputation of the Newspaper.
Information Management Consultant and Political Researcher
Wrote in from Garki – Abuja .