The National President, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr Chris Isiguzo, has appealed to the Federal Government to take decisive measures against banditry in North-West Nigeria.
He made the plea on Monday at the National Executive Council (NEC) of the NUJ holding in Birnin Kebbi.
He said the measures were necessary to prevent a complete breakdown of law and order in the region.
This NEC is the inaugural one since the executive members were elected, with Isiguzo securing a second term, in October 2021.
The NUJ president said that banditry had become a huge menace in the North-West and was fast spreading to the North-Central and other parts of Nigeria.
“No doubt, the interplay of farmers/herders relations over the years and the consequent conflict dynamics is one of the baseline factors for the vicious activities of these non state actors.
“These killings directly affect the seven states of North-West Nigeria – Kebbi, Katsina, Kaduna, Kano, Zamfara, Sokoto and Jigawa. The menace is fast spreading into the North-Central state of Niger, thus, affecting all sectors of development.
“Urgent steps need to be taken to avert a complete breakdown of law and order. We are worried that education in this region is suffering serious setback, many school children are now unable to attend schools.
“This is due to fear; many are dropping out of elementary schools and only few are able to transit to secondary schools,” Isiguzo said.
He added that not only had banditry affected children’s enrollment into schools all over the region, but it had also affected the availability of education materials and infrastructure.
He explained that experts were alluding to what is called “shifting geography of violence”, where villages, semi-urban centres and communities were targeted for attacks, causing an apparent increase in the number of internally displaced persons all over the region.
“This also explains increase in sexual abuse of women and children; it forces families to ‘commodify’ their children in exchange for protection and security,” he noted.
Isiguzo identified good governance free of abuse and corruption and due regards to the rule of law as a panacea to the lingering security issues bedevelling the nation, adding that good governance was increasingly being used in development literature.
He cautioned journalists against propagating fake news and hate speeches, urging them to ensure proper and adequate checks before going to press.
He also advised that criticism should be done in an objective manner devoid of any sentiment.
“This is the only way we can help sustain our democracy. Distracting leaders from act of governance through such fake news and hate speeches will not ogur well for our country. We, as change agents, must embrace development journalism.
“We call on the Federal Government to assist affected states with more urgent remedies to ameliorate the hunger that will be experienced these years because of the limited access to farmlands by farmers.
“Food security measures are of vital importance if the nation wants to avert this impending catastrophe,” he said.
He advocated sustained military operations in the area to enable farmers get access to their farmlands.
Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State noted that the press was saddled with the statutory role and responsibilities of educating and enlightening people on government policies and programmes.
According to him, the press remains the mirror through which government policies, actions and inactions are viewed, measured, monitored and evaluated.
“For this reason among many others, we need to bring you closer to enable us work together, so as to diligently and effectively carry out your responsibilities of informing and educating people about government policies and programmes.
“This is what informed the decision of Gov. Abubakar Atiku Bagudu to approve the holding of your executive council meeting here,” Bagudu, who was represented by Alhaji Babale Umar-Yauri, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), said.
He called on journalists to focus on developmental journalism so as to support government to tackle the myriad of state and national problems.
Commissioner of Information and Culture, Hajiya Rakiya Tanko-Ayuba, urged journalists to refrain from activitiea capable of endangering national unity.
Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information, Alhaji Garba Hamisu-Zuru, she revealed that Gov. Bagudu facilitated the training of 150 social media practitioners and 10 bloggers on the ethics of new media practice to help practitioners to operate optimally.
“This is in addition to another training on the use of new media platforms for development, while information officers from the information ministry had refresher training on contemporary methodology of news gathering and dissemination,” she said.
In a welcome address, Alhaji Hamza Galadima-Zuru, NUJ Chairman, Kebbi State Council, appreciated the tremendous efforts of journalists in the state.
He specifically lauded their crucial role in propagating the activities and programmes of the state government, especially the popular rice revolution.
“This has placed the state on the world map of rice producers across the globe,” he said.