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NAN MD wants code for online media, assesses economy

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Bayo Onanuga, NAN MD speaks at Conference of Guild of Corporate Online Publishers,

Mr. Bayo Onanuga, the Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), has stressed the need for rules of engagement for bloggers and online publishers.

In a paper he presented on Thursday in Lagos as guest speaker at Guild of Corporate Online Publishers Conference, Onanuga also emphasised the need for a code of conduct.

These steps, he said, were necessary to protect the integrity of the cyberspace, just as it was done for publishers and journalists by NUJ, Guild of Editors and NPAN decades ago.

“One of the areas that you need to seriously compare notes is the explosion of hate speeches, hate-filled stories, outright lies, fake news that we read often online or on social media platforms,’’ he said.

He urged the Guild to focus on building capacity for members through seminars and workshops to teach the relevant skills to equip members with the necessary tools and ideas for the practice of Online Journalism.

The theme of the conference “Sustaining Growth through diversification of the economy: The Media experience’’, is apt considering the current economic situation, he said..

“It is a truism that whenever any economy is under throes of adjustment, the first sector to be affected is the media both in terms of lost advert revenue and copy sales. Conversely, when there is a boom, the media also benefit.

“We are all living witnesses to the misfortune of our industry in the last decade, the massive reduction in both copy and advert sales, and how this led to newspaper closures, downsizing, the emergence of bloggers and online newspapers and the explosion in the social media.’’

This is not a development peculiar to our country. It is global.

“It is a remarkable coincidence that your Guild and the Nigerian Government are focusing on the same issue simultaneously,’’ as exemplified in your theme.
On the part of the government, it has launched the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (2017-2020) which is a child of “our recent experience, the economic recession’’.

He explained that it was meant to re-engineer the nation’s economy, away from crude export dependence, to the one built on agriculture, to ensure food sufficiency, energy, industrialisation, social investment and massive infrastructure, such as roads and railway.

The plan, he said, sought to achieve 7 per cent growth in the economy by 2020.

“That I believe, you will agree, is an ambitious programme, if we bear in mind that right now we are billed to see some snail-like growth in the economy, months after we have been declared technically out of recession.’’

He said that although the recession was global due largely of oil prices, but the case of Nigeria was worsened by the sharp reduction in oil output, caused by the sabotage of oil installations in Niger Delta, the sharp fall in dollar reserves, and the ensuing panic in the economic policies initially embarked upon by government.

Tracing the history of recession in Nigeria, he said, the nation experienced it from 1982-85 as well as in the early 1990s; but “this recession was different and President Buhari was on record to have said that it was the worst economic crisis our nation ever experienced’’.

“Each time the nation trod this difficult path; we always talked about diversifying our mono-cultural economy. But decades after decades, nothing really changed in our economic profile. We remained addicted to oil, addicted to cheap petro-dollars. We merely paid lip service to diversification.’’

However, he said that the Buhari’s government was changing the narratives of past inaction, and was working systematically to wean Nigeria from crude oil, the Black Gold from the Niger Delta.

The government, he said, was paying attention to agriculture and solid mineral development and lay all other blocks to make possible the building of a much better, much stronger economy.
Listing a catalogue of actions taken by the government to diversify, Onanuga, drew attention to the recently commission Kebbi rice mill, the largest in Africa.

He said Lagos also signed an agreement in Switzerland to build a mega rice mill in Imota, which will employ close to 150,000 people.

“The Dangote Group is investing $1.5billion in rice plantation and milling, all with the aim of making Nigeria self-sufficient in the product that we were importing shamelessly from Asia.

He said that Acting President Yemi Osinbajo had confirmed that the sharp rise in rice production forcing importation went down by 80 per cent in 2016.

“In the last two years, Nigeria, which is the largest producer of rice in West Africa and the second largest importer of rice in the world has changed that story.

“Our rice import bill in 2014 was N1 billion a month. Today, by a combination of progressive legislative appropriation to agriculture, and providing single digit credit, under our anchor borrowers programme for the purchase of right fertilizer quality and other inputs and credit, many rice farmers moved from getting yields of 3.5 metric tons per hectare to 7.5 mt per hectare,” he quoted Osinbajo as saying.

There was an increased focus on solid minerals, which he said would soon begin yielding fruits.

Although private drive, he said that after decades of importing petroleum products, the Nigerian government was solidly backing the $11 billion petrol chemical complex, the largest in the world being built by Aliko Dangote in Lekki.

The complex, that will refine 650,000 barrels of crude per day, has other spin-offs, a fertiliser plant and power plant that can add 12,000 megawatts to the grid. And there will be many other products from the petro-chemical complex, which we import today.

There is also the $1.5 billion fertiliser plant built in Port Harcourt by Indorama, he said.

To further spur the economy to move away from crude, he said that the government recently announced tax holiday for 27 industries.

The creative industry would transform and develop the creative industry.

Onanuga also quoted information minister Lai Mohammed on something else that would boost the economy.

“It is about the change in the National Broadcasting Code that will compel companies fond of splashing profits earned in Nigeria in promoting foreign football leagues.

“They are now to be compelled to spend 30 per cent of whatever they spend on Manchester United, or Arsenal on Nigerian football. After all, charity begins from home.

“The change in the NBC code will also compel TV programme producers to produce programmes meant for Nigerian consumption locally, instead of producing them in Dubai or South Africa.’’

He said that all the developments in the economy show an uncommon determination by the present administration to ensure that the economy does not experience the brutal recessionary mill the second time.

These would, he said, would impact positively on the media business in terms advert revenue and copy sales.

“Ehen there is a boom, the media also benefit.’’

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