The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, says the Federal Government will mandate the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to come up with new regulations for internet and mainstream broadcast organizations.
Mr Lai Mohammed disclosed this in Abuja on Tuesday after he received reports from the committee inaugurated last month to study and make recommendations on the government’s proposals to reform the NBC.
The minister also urged the NBC to review its fines from N500,000 to N5,000,000 for breaches relating to hate speeches.
The Federal Government has been reflecting on its whistle-blower policy, insisting that progress is being made in the recovery of looted funds in many currencies across the country.
In a statement issued in Lagos on Sunday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the policy is showing the depth of support among Nigerians for the fight against corruption.
He therefore thanked Nigerians for what he described as the enthusiasm and commitment that they have shown in helping the government to tackle the hydra-headed monster of corruption through the useful leads they have been providing to appropriate government agencies.
In his word, ”Since we launched the whistle-blower policy, we have received immeasurable support from Nigerians. Yes, there is monetary reward for any information that leads to recovery of looted funds, but from what we have seen, most of the Nigerians who have come forward with useful leads were driven by patriotism rather than reward.”
He therefore reassured Nigerians who have useful information on looted funds that the government would protect their identities and also ensure that they get the stipulated reward for their efforts.
The Federal Government has urged parents and guardians to monitor the activities of their children and wards in order to prevent them from being recruited by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
According to the government, the terrorist group has now resorted to targeting vulnerable individuals, including foreign students, using financial inducements to recruit them into the organisation.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Monday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, cited the recent recruitment into ISIS of 27 medical students of the University of Medical Sciences and Technology (UMST) in Sudan as an example of the new strategy being used by the organisation to recruit more members.
The Minister, quoting a report received by the Nigerian Intelligence Community, said 22 of the 27 students, who travelled to Syria to join ISIS, are Britons.
The report also revealed that the students were recruited by one Mohammed Fakhri Al-khabbas, a former UMST student from Middlesbrough, United Kingdom.
The Chairperson of the Committee, Honourable Nkiru Onyejeocha, warned the contractors to keep to the stated date of completion, noting that the Committee will not tolerate request for extension of time.
The Federal Government has reviewed the visa processes for foreigners who wish to visit Nigeria for business and tourism purposes.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, explained in a statement that the review was aimed at removing bureaucratic bottlenecks and encouraging business travellers and tourists.
He said the measures were part of the government’s action plan for the ease of doing business, and efforts to boost tourism and the economy.
“The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has reviewed the requirements for Nigerian visas to make them more customer friendly, and details of this review are available on the NIS official website, www.immigration.gov.ng.
“Types of visas currently reviewed include Visa on Arrival (VoA) processes, Business Visas, Tourist Visas and Transit Visas,” the minister said.
Mr Mohammed hinted that business visas are available for foreign travellers who wish to travel to Nigeria for meetings, conferences, seminars, contract negotiation, marketing, sales, purchase and distribution of Nigerian goods, trade fairs, job interviews, training of Nigerians, emergency/relief work, crew members, staff of NGOs, Staff of INGOs, researchers and musical concerts.
He added that tourist visas are also available to foreign travellers who wish to visit Nigeria for the purpose of tourism, or to visit family and friends while Nigeria Visa on Arrival is a class of short visit visa issued at the port of entry.
The minister noted that the visa is available to frequently-travelled High-Net-Worth Investors and intending visitors who may not be able to obtain visa at the Nigerian Missions/Embassies in their countries of residence, due to the absence of a Nigerian mission in those countries or exigencies of urgent business travels.
He noted that other actions taken by the Immigration Service include the harmonisation of multiplicity of Airport Arrival and Departure Form/Cards into a single form for all agencies of government to save foreign visitors from the current frustrating practice of filling three different forms or more, and the decentralisation of services to the State Commands.
“Reissuance of passports for change of names due to marital reasons or lost cases have been decentralised to all State Commands and Foreign Missions to save passport holders from additional costs and inconvenience of travelling to the Service Headquarters in Abuja.
“Additional 28 offices have been opened for issuance of Residence Permits in Nigeria, bringing the issuance of Combined Expatriate Residence Permit And Aliens Cards (CERPAC) closer to the doorstep of employers of expatriates at all 36 states and FCT,” the Information Minister said.
He stated that the measures taken by NIS fit perfectly into the 60-day national action plan for ease of doing business in Nigeria which he said was recently approved by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), as well as the Federal Government’s efforts to boost international tourism.
The Federal Government has asked Nigerians not to rule out the possibility of achieving the digital broadcast switchover deadline of June 2017 set by the International Telecommunications Union.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, made the call on Thursday at a public hearing of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee set up to investigate the process of the planned digital switchover in Nigeria.
He stressed the need to review the business model inherited from the previous administration before the set deadline.
“We know it’s very ambitious but if you aim for the sky, you might at least get the ceiling.
“We don’t want to say June 2017 is unachievable, we’ll relax. But if we are able to roll out another six by May, then we know where we are,” the minister said.
The Chairman of the House Ad-hoc Committee, Representative Sunday Katung, also emphasised the importance of the digital switchover.
However, the Chairman of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) and CEO, Channels Media Group, Mr John Momoh, stressed the need to place the interest of stakeholders and that of the country first.
Mr Momoh advised that Nigeria should work towards ensuring that a good switchover transition was achieved rather than emphasising deadlines.
“Again, I say that we shouldn’t be looking at deadlines. I think we should just work towards making sure that we have a very good switchover.
“When we set a deadline, we put ourselves under pressure.
“The ministry is working very well with the border states to make sure that there is no confusion in terms of interference.
“We should just be focused and see how can we transit to digital, rather than emphasise deadlines.
“Deadlines will put us in trouble,” the BON Chairman warned.
Other issues discussed at the gathering include funding and the need to have a better business model backed by a good legal framework to accommodate the transition process.
The Nigerian government says a cell of a Boko Haram affiliate, called the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ in Kogi state, is acquiring bomb-making chemicals and high-calibre weapons to perpetrate “acts of terror”, including attacks on banks, arms depots and prisons in the country.
According to a statement by the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, intelligence monitoring showed that the cell was making frantic efforts to advance its IED-making capability through the acquisition of chemicals used for producing IEDs and aluminium powder, a fuel source for amplifying explosions.
In his words: “Further intelligence monitoring has revealed that members of the Muslim Brotherhood are planning to forcefully free their members who are in detention in Kogi, Abuja and Kaduna, including one Bilyaminu, an IED expert for the group who is now at Kuje prison,”
The minister, therefore appealed to Nigerians to be vigilant and to report any suspicious persons or movements to the appropriate authorities.
The Federal Government has urged Nigerians to disregard what it called ‘subversive messages’ about President Muhammadu Buhari’s health.
The government said the fabricated messages, being circulated via text messaging and the social media, were orchestrated by those who feel threatened by the emerging order.
In a statement on Wednesday the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, said that there was no iota of truth in the messages being circulated on the health of the President.
He maintained that the President is hale and hearty and condemned the purported reports of emergency meetings of the State Governors in Abuja or anywhere.
Tools To Divide Nigerians
The Minister noted that “the naysayers have also resorted to the use of ethnicity and religion as tools to divide Nigerians, overheat the polity and cause panic among the citizenry, in addition to using fake news and disinformation to distort government activities”.
He said that while opposition and criticism were all part of democracy, “the crafting and circulation of subversive materials and scare-mongering are not”, warning that the full wrath of the law would be brought to bear on those who were bent on subverting the state.
“The source (or) sources of the fabricated messages are already being investigated and the authors should prepare to face the consequences of their actions.
“The emerging trend of resorting to destabilisation and scare-mongering is not unexpected, considering this government’s clamp-down on the corrupt elements in the society (and) the plugging of all financial leaks which has derailed the gravy train of the looters of public treasury and the enthronement of probity and transparency in the polity.
“While we will neither stifle press freedom nor abridge the citizens’ right to express themselves freely, whether through criticism or protests, the security agencies will neither allow any resort to violence nor a wilful subversion of the state for whatever reason,” the minister warned.
Nigeria’s journey to full transition from analogue to digital broadcasting appears to be gaining momentum as Abuja, the nation’s capital city, joins the moving train.
Residents of the Federal Capital Territory, now have access to 30 free-to-air channels, with nearly 70 per cent local content on their television sets, following the Digital Switch Over that took place on Thursday.
According to the federal government, six more states from each of the nation’s geo-political zones will be switched over in the coming months.
The President, represented by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, said the Federal Government was also determined to ensure a seamless roll-out of the DSO in all the states of the federation because of the multiplier effect of the benefits.
“Technology is transforming our lives and livelihoods daily, in new and more dramatic ways. Perhaps more important are the doors opened by digital transition”.
According to him, the the successful launch of the pilot scheme in Jos in April, has “clearly demonstrated the gains of Digital Switch Over.
“Let me restate for emphasis that this government is irreversibly committed to meeting the June 2017 deadline for the switch over in the West African sub-region and also to the roll-out of the DSO in all the states of the federation.
The Nigerian government has commended Nigerians for their resilience despite the tough times occasioned by the economic recession, assuring them that the government remains committed to implementing realistic policies that will reverse the trend.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, gave the commendation in Lagos in his keynote address at the 4th Commonwealth Public Relations Congress.
“We are not unaware of the harsh effects of the recession on the citizens. We share in their pains and we make no excuses as we continue to work round the clock to ensure that this tough time is quickly brought to an end. The good news is that the prognosis for a quick end to the recession is encouraging.
“As the saying goes, the recession is a bend in the road, not the end of the road. The challenge for us as a government is to turn the bend, and we are doing just that,” he said.
Mr Mohammed said that while the Buhari Administration rode to power on the crest of change, there can be no change without discomforts.
He, however, assured Nigerians that with persistence on the part of the government and perseverance on the part of the people, there was definitely light at the end of the tunnel.
“The government is investing massively in infrastructural development: roads, railways, power and creating jobs in the process, as part of efforts to pull the country out of recession,” the Minister said.
On job creation, he said 200,000 of the 500,000 jobs promised under the N-Power Volunteers Programme had already been filled and that those selected would start work on December 1.
Mr Mohammed also explained that an alternative funding of the Oil and Gas Industry Joint Ventures, which had been approved by the Federal Executive Council, would also impact positively on the economy.
”This alternative funding is set to increase the net Federal Government revenue per annum by about two billion dollars, lead to an increase in national production from the current 2.2 million barrels per day to 2.5 million bpd by 2019, reduce Unit Technical Costs from $27.96/Barrel Oil Equivalent (boe) to $18/boe and double the net payments to the Federation Account, from about seven billion dollars to over $14 billion by 2020,” he further explained.
He told the gathering that the funding mechanism would also allow the JV business to be self-fund, restore investor confidence, raise the prospects of higher investment in growth activities by the partners and arrest production decline.
Speaking on the theme of the congress “Strategic Management of Reputation Risk in an Interdependent World,” the minister outlined some of the increasing challenges confronting Public Relations Managers, especially the impact of the Social Media which has democratised the means of gathering and disseminating information, and urged participants to come up with innovative ways to surmount the challenges.
“This theme could not have been more relevant. For those of us in the business of managing government’s image. We hope the outcome of your deliberations will offer us a fresh perspective to better handle this increasingly challenging task.
“I said increasingly challenging because as we strive to project a positive image for the government and keep the citizens informed of government activities, we are constantly being forced to devise innovative ways to ensure a better, two-way communication between the government and the people”.
“We can confirm that 21 of the girls were released, safely, to us by 5.30 this Thursday morning and they were flown to Kaduna from the location of their release.
“This is the most glaring manifestation to date of the unwavering commitment of Mr President to secure the safe release of the girls and reunite them with their families.
“It is also a result of the round-the-clock efforts by the Administration to put a closure to the sad issue of the kidnap of the girls,” he stated.
‘Not A Swap’
After they were released there were speculations that their release was secured through a swap deal, but the Minister of Information also dismissed the claims.
He said that their release was based on confidence and not a swap arrangement with the terrorists group.
“This is not a swap. This was a release which was effected because over time, we succeeded in confidence building.
“This particular release is significant because it’s just a first step in what we believe will lead to the eventual release of all our girls in custody. It is significant also because we have been able to establish more than ever before a confidence in both the leadership of Boko Haram and Nigerians.
“I am not aware of any monetary transaction,” he said.
In fulfilment of a promise to rehabilitate the girls, after the celebration on Sunday, the girls were, however, not handed over to their parents. They are to remain with the government for some time for further medical assistance and counselling.
A former Head of State in Nigeria, Mr Abdulsalami Abubakar, has highlighted the role of dialogue in crisis situation, saying it could be used to resolve Niger Delta militants’ crisis.
The former leader’s statement is coming a day after 21 of the over 200 girls abducted from Chibok community in Borno State in northeast Nigeria were released amidst dialogue between the government and the Boko Haram terrorist group.
He commended the government’s effort to secure the release of the girls that have been in the custody of the terrorists since April 14, 2014.
General Abubakar was speaking on Friday in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State in south-west Nigeria after a courtesy call by him and his wife, Justice Fati Abubakar, on the Alake and paramount ruler of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo.
“The release of the girls is a testimony to the need for dialogue in crisis situation, even in the Niger Delta where militants have continued to attack critical infrastructure in the region,” the former leader stressed.
He further acknowledged God’s intervention in the release of the girls.
“We give glory to God for saving those children and we congratulate everyone who is involved in bringing these girls back.
“We pray that the rest will come back.
“I congratulate the parents who have been organised for the one year plus or so.
“We pray that never will such occurrence happen in our lives,” Mr Abubakar said.
‘A Show Of Faith’
After the release of the girls was announced, many feared it must have been secured through a prisoner swap.
The Boko Haram terrorists had in a video of the girls released few months ago, requested for a swap with some of the group members held at different detention centres in Nigeria.
A government official, however, said that the girls were not released in swap deal.
The spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr Femi Adesina, described the release of 21 the Chibok girls as ‘a show of faith’ on the part of the insurgents.
He told Channels Television on Friday that the development was a confidence building step that would lead to bigger things.
“I have heard and read so much about what we gave and what we didn’t give.
“This is just a confidence building step that will lead to bigger things.
“In the past, there have been many of such meetings that would have led to releases but along the line, discussions broke down.
“Maybe they (the terrorists) trust the (new) process and they believe that they do this as a show of their trust and faith and believe.
“For now, what we have been told is that there was no swap and the girls were released just as a show of faith, a confidence building measure and I think it is good enough for us to believe,” he said.
Announcing the release of the girls on Thursday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, stated categorically that the release was not a swap, but was achieved through the collaborative efforts of the security agencies, a friendly European country and a renowned International Humanitarian Organisation.