Stakeholders suggest how media can help Nigeria defeat insecurity, other challenges

STAKEHOLDERS, including scholars, researchers, and security experts have suggested how media in Nigeria could support the nation’s Armed Forces and government to defeat insecurity and myriads of crises facing the nation.

They gave the suggestions at the maiden International Conference of the Department of Mass Communication, Faculty of Social Sciences, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, which was held on the school premises between Monday, February 26 and Tuesday, February 27.

The conference, with the theme, “Communication, Media, Insecurity and Development: Issues, Challenges and Way Forward,” provided participants with the opportunity to discuss how media democratisation, which has given birth to new media and related technologies, shapes communication and social interactions and impacts security and development in Nigeria.

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Participants extensively discussed the implications of information, misinformation and fake news on national security, cohesion, peace and development.

Besides, the effects of objective and subjective reportage of national security, media ownership influence, and the growing population of content creators and social media influencers on the nation’s security and development were assessed at the conference.

Several sessions were devoted to how artificial intelligence (AI) impacts academics and the media, including the need for users to abide by the rules guiding its use.

Hundreds of papers were presented at the conference, many of which dwelt on the future of the media, academics and AI.

A cross-section of participants at the maiden International Conference of the Department of Mass Communication, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, which was held on the school premises between Monday, February 26 and Tuesday, February 27, 2024.

The conference was sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, The International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Centre for Collaborative Investigative Journalism (CCIJ), Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), RiseNetworks, Dataphyte and WAMAC, and the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) among others.

Conference apt, will help address pertinent national security issues – HOD

Welcoming the participants, the Head of the Department of Mass Communication at the ABU, Adama Adamu, a doctorate holder, said the department was established in 1992, commenced with the 1993 session and had graduated thousands of students who had contributed positively to Nigeria’s growth and development.

Adamu noted that for close to two decades, Nigeria had been grappling with security challenges such as Boko Haram insurgency, armed banditry, kidnapping, and secessionist hostilities, worsened by the proliferation of misinformation and fake news.

She explained that the conference was apt and offered participants the opportunity to look deeply into the challenges to come up with recommendations that could help address them.

“In an era marked by unprecedented advancement and global interconnectedness, the role of communication and media in shaping perceptions, influencing policies and fostering socio-economic development cannot be overstated. As scholars, researchers, practitioners, and policymakers, we have a unique opportunity to have meaningful discussions, share insights and propose innovative solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing us in society.

“It is also imperative for us to harness the power of communication and media for the greater good, to amplify marginalized voices to hold power to account and to foster a culture of peace and inclusivity,” she stated.

Conference strategic, VC says

The university’s vice-chancellor, Kabiru Bala, a professor, said the conference was timely given how insecurity had become a major stumbling block to Nigeria’s development.

He said the conference availed media and communication scholars to brainstorm on how best to tame the “wild and dangerous fire of insecurity.”

The conference was strategic in view of the roles media play in national security and the socio-economic development of Nigeria, noted the VC.

He challenged the participants to brainstorm on how the media could further contribute to national security and development.

‘Media reportage seriously affects military operations’ – COAS

In his keynote lecture, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Taoheed Abiodun Lagbaja, a Lieutenant-General, spoke on the Nigerian Army’s engagement with the public and media towards promoting peaceful co-existence and providing a secure environment for national development.

The Chief of Army Staff, Taoheed Abiodun Lagbaja, represented by Moyosore Akin Ojo, a Brigadier-General and Commander, 41 Engineering Brigade of the Nigerian Army, delivered his presentation at the conference.

Represented by Moyosore Akin Ojo, a Brigadier-General and Commander 41 Engineering Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Lagbaja said the Armed Forces of Nigeria had a clear understanding of the impacts that media narratives have on military operations.

According to him, the necessity for the twin concept of security and development for any nation, particularly developing ones like Nigeria was aptly captured by the former secretary of the United States, Robert MacNamara, who posited that in a modernised society, development is security and security is development; and one could not be achieved without the other.

“A nation’s developmental efforts are tied to security in the polity, which is greatly influenced by the citizens’ perceptions, majorly from media communication or reportage of events. Such reportage seriously affects military operations, making this conference very apt…

“In complex contemporary landscape, challenges will always emerge at the interception of the media, communication, security and development. The media is seen as a double-edged sword, wielding its power through communication to either bolster national security efforts by responsible reporting or inadvertently undermine national security and cohesion through sensationalism and misinformation, both with direct and dire effects on development,” he said.

He averred that communication played important roles in informing and shaping contemporary society by being a cornerstone for societal development, political discussion and cultural exchange.

Lagbaja submitted that advancements in technology, particularly the internet and social media revolutionised the way information is disseminated and consumed, and social media platforms such as Facebook, X, and Instagram among others had become primary sources of news for a significant portion of the global population.

He said citizen journalism and blogging had emerged as powerful mediums challenging traditional journalism, thereby democratising the flow of information. But the democratisation, he stated, engendered the spread of misinformation.

He explained that while the democratisation of sources of information helped to respond to challenges faster, it also made it difficult to easily combat fake news.

“The Army continues to work closely with local and international media organisations while holding periodic meetings with them and addressing issues jointly and building closer ties. This is because the Armed Forces as a whole recognise that an informed society is crucial to building confidence and understanding.

“Furthermore, through the Directorate of Army Public Relations and the Directorate of Defence Information, accurate and timely information is disseminated to the public to promote transparency and dispel misinformation.

The COAS said the Army conducted its operational activities within the legal framework as defined by Sections 217 and 218 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.

The legal framework provides the foundation for the Nigerian Army’s involvement in various internal and external security operations, which the institution has been performing creditably, said Lagbaja.

“The Nigeria Army would require public and media support, particularly in the aspect of responsible journalism in conveying the complexities of the various security operations being conducted. The media is important in the populace understanding the challenges faced by the Armed Forces, thereby influencing their support which is critical for governance and sustenance of troops morale.

“Our internal security operations are intelligence-driven, requiring the support of the citizenry.”

He said the adversaries must be denied the same support given to the Armed Forces by the public.

He listed some of the challenges the military faced with the media to include poor understanding of national security and national interests by a section of the media and citizens; clash of interests which he said made some media disseminate sensational stories that are detrimental to the nation’s security; and politicisation of national security by some media houses.

Besides, foreign media pursue their home country’s agenda by publishing damaging reports against Nigeria, he noted.

Nevertheless, he said the Armed Forces would continue to do their jobs with tact and respect for citizens’ rights and would continue to ensure peace reigns in the nation.

To overcome the challenges, he called for the Introduction of security education in schools and other institutions, training journalists on security reporting, balanced reporting by media houses, and periodic meetings and seminars by stakeholders.

How newspaper published fake news claiming my brother died fighting war – Zazzau Emir

In his address, the Emir of Zazzau, Ahmed Nuhu Bamalli, a former ambassador and former Managing Director of Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company, NSPMC Plc, shared his experience of how a newspaper published a report about his brother, a soldier, who allegedly died in Sierra-Leone while helping to restore peace in the country.

He rushed to the military hospital in Yaba, Lagos State, with his cousin to see how he could claim the remains of his ‘late’ brother.

He said he eventually realised that his brother was alive and the newspaper only published a fake news.

“My brother is a major general today in the Army. Then, I think he was a lieutenant or second lieutenant. “This is one of the problems that we have in our communities.”

While urging the faculty to ensure the conference continues in subsequent years, he said, “I have to thank the dean of the faculty for assembling this. This is the first time in many years that I came to ABU to see the hall filled to capacity.”

Media has a role in national integration – Pate

The lead paper presenter, Umaru Pate, who is the vice-chancellor of the Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State, said in his paper titled, “Communication and Insecurity in Nigeria, Issues and Challenges in the Era of Artificial Intelligence, that money would not go into any society with conflict, adding that conflict retards development.

Vice-chancellor of the Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State, delivering his paper titled, “Communication and Insecurity in Nigeria, Issues and Challenges in the Era of Artificial Intelligence at the conference.

Pate recalled that Nigeria had experienced insecurity for more than two decades, which had impacted its fabrics deeply.

He listed challenges confronting Nigeria to include insurgency, terrorism, violent crimes, communal conflicts, widespread corruption, extensive acts of lawlessness and worsening poverty, all of which he said contributed to insecurity.

He also said kidnapping, armed robbery, assassination, high-profile financial corruption, drug and human trafficking, cattle rustling, sea robbery and piracy, militancy, cultism and cult-related violence, pipeline vandalism, illegal oil bunkering, illegal refining of petroleum, herders-farmers clashes among others were causes of internal conflict in Nigeria.

“All of these things are now compounded by media convergence,” he said.

Pate argued that Nigeria is a multicultural and heterogeneous society where the practice of communication reflects the diversity of cultures.

“For many years running, the global perception of peace about the country has been dropping on the world peace index. Not that Nigeria wants it but we have been recording such things at the global level.”



    He said communication and insecurity are linked to each other and it would not be possible for security to be violated without involving one form of communication or the other.

    He also cautioned that the assessment of communication and insecurity should not be limited to media contents only, but extended to perceptions of interpersonal communication in the context of intercultural settings, especially as facilitated by digital devices.

    “Today, you could see how our communication has been into bullets. People’s discussions on social media turn into some kind of war. In the past, nobody ever thought that Nigeria could experience the kind of violence it is experiencing today to the point that some people could even openly, confidently talk about secession and you see it reflected in our media organisations. If not anything, we should have boundaries we should not cross.

    “The problem we are likely having in Nigeria today is that the majority of our young people are not connected to the conventional media. The last statistic I saw from the United Nations Population Fund was that Nigeria had about 227.85 million people as of the end of last year. Over 60 per cent were young people,” he stressed.

























































































































    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

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