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ICIR clocks 10, highlights challenges facing investigative journalism in Nigeria

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THE International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) has identified a lack of political will by the Nigerian government, a lacklustre attitude by anti-corruption agencies towards exposed corruption cases and poor funding as some of the major factors militating against investigative journalism in Nigeria.

The Centre also decried government’s sustained use of state agents to hound journalists for doing reports it considers offensive.

Executive Director of The ICIR, Dayo Aiyetan, stated these on Wednesday while featuring on an anti-corruption radio programme, Public Conscience, produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, in Abuja.

Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.

The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.

Aiyetan said The ICIR had tremendously helped promote accountability and transparent governance in the country through its in-depth and objective reports within its ten years of operations.

According to him, the Centre draws inspiration from the feats it achieved within the short period and will do more in the coming years.

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Aiyetan noted that many of the Centre’s investigations made remarkable impacts, compelling the government to react and address the abnormalities they raised.

“We are not where we want to be because corruption still persists in Nigeria, but I will say we have achieved a lot that we set out to do.

“Our strategy which has worked perfectly for us is that we have collaborated with other media houses. We have been at the forefront of collaboration between media and CSOs. Beyond that, we are encouraging collaboration between the media and even government agencies, and that’s why we share intelligence sometimes with the military, DSS, and ICPC. “

He commended the MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) for funding the Centre’s projects. He further noted that collaboration with PRIMORG and other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) played a significant role in the height attained by the Centre in the last decade.

While rating the President Muhammadu Buhari administration very low in tackling corruption, he condemned the use of state agents to persecute journalists who expose corruption.

“This government that is using state institutions to fight us will earn minus twenty in my estimation.

“They have used DSS against us; DSS would just call us to their office. We are not criminals; we are helping the work of the government. But they’re using the state, including the office of the Attorney General, to harass and hound us. Why? For doing investigative stories.”

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He described the recent release of convicted former governors of Taraba and Plateau states, Jolly Nyame and Joshua Dariye, who were serving jail terms for misappropriation of funds, as developments that highlighted the government’s unwillingness to fight corruption.

Also speaking at the programme, The ICIR Editor, Victoria Bamas, noted that the government’s failure to react and address concerns raised from investigative reports could demoralise journalists.

Bamas said reporters’ passion and commitment to doing their job kept them going. 

She explained that in addition to the conventional newspapering, The ICIR’s Fact Check Hub had helped reduce misinformation.

“The Fact Check Hub does misinformation conversion and also tries to enlighten the public, give youths skills and tutorials whereby one can identify basic misinformation.”

Ahead of the 2023 general election, Bamas said the Centre had formed a coalition with other media organisations to engage the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC and other government agencies on misinformation.

The ICIR will commemorate its 10th anniversary on June 22, 2022, with an international conference on “Media Sustainability in Nigeria” at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.

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