During a three-session panel at the just concluded WikkiTimes’ colloquium, issues surrounding impunity, judicial theft, mismanagement of public funds and good governance were discussed by nine panellists consisting of media experts, academics, and government officials among others.
Among the panellists who were physically present at the event include; Dahiru Garba Mohammed, General Manager, Fombina FM, Dr Hamid Adamu Muhammad, a lecturer at Federal Polytechnic Bauchi, Abdul Ahmed Bura, Spokesman for Speaker, Bauchi State House Of Assembly, and S.G Idris, a Bauchi-based lawyer cum WikkiTimes’ legal luminary.
Others who joined virtually were Ajibola Hamzat, the Africa Editor at the Center for Collaborative Investigative Journalism with headquarters in Michigan, United States, Victoria Bamas, editor of The ICIR, Abdullateef Abubakar, Publisher of Solace Base, Olajide Adelana, Editor and Newsroom Mentor, and Aloba Adenike, Managing Editor, Dataphye.
FIGHTING IMPUNITY AND JUDICIAL THEFT
Panellists, during this session, discussed how impunity has been institutionalised in the country. This, however, is believed to be enabled by courts and judges who in most cases, delay justice.
According to Idris, the only lawyer among the panellists, people in positions of authority often serve as role models to the people at the bottom when it comes to impunity.
He also bemoaned among others, cases of awaiting trial and subverting of conviction citing a case of one Baba Darazo that was kept without execution, 16 years after he was convicted.
In her words, Dataphytes’s Abola argued that the media is also a victim of impunity in many instances. But the barrister responded, saying “journalists have problems with law largely due to sensationalism, speculation, personality attack, defamation among other things. But the defence here is justification, getting your facts right.”
In close, Idris emphasised that the constitution gives the right to individuals to express themselves through different means including the media. However, getting the facts straight is vital to the practice, Idris explained. “They [journalists] should have their facts and guard against going off limits,” he said.
BREACH OF TRUST FOR PERSONAL GAINS
Public trust is about good governance, Dr Hamid believes. “It is about trusting people with an obligation. It is inherently human to be selfish, to court personal gain before public interest,” he said, adding WikkiTimes is changing people’s perception and orientation with its kind of journalism but will only be felt much later, in the long run.
“WikkiTimes shouldn’t expect result tomorrow, immediately. And democracy itself is a fallacy,” the scholar said. “Leadership drives society and society chooses leadership. Without entities such as WikkiTimes, democracy can’t thrive successfully. Mass media is doing well to keep the government accountable in our democracy as some research has shown.”
On his part, Ajibola spoke on the expectations of journalists in accountability journalism.
“Accountability journalism provides information that helps people know how the government works,” the seasoned editor said. “Quality of journalism is also related to the quality of democracy. Getting ourselves as journalists trained and retrained, and knowing the roles that journalists should play is key in accountability journalism.”
“Newsrooms such as WikkiTimes should collaborate and ask for support from within and outside the country to be able to do their work better,” he concluded.
The spokesman to the Speaker of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, Bura boasting about his partnership with WikkiTimes, said he had helped strengthen accountability in the assembly using the platform.
Commenting on hazards in accountability journalism, Dr Hamid said a journalist should stay out of harm.
His words: “Don’t go the harm’s way but you will only die once ultimately. And die for a cause that you will be remembered for! WikkiTimes should connect with the masses more deeply; it is about elitists. Without accountability journalism such as WikkiTimes’, Nigeria will perish or disintegrate. journalists should prioritise accountability journalism in their engagement.
“There should be research on WikkiTimes stories to know or assess some level of impact. It should also focus on social issues such as almajiri, out of school children in its stories.”
PUBLIC OFFICERS ABUSE PUBLIC TRUST
Editor and Newsroom Mentor, Adelana noted that there is a leadership problem and issues of trust between leaders and the led. According to him, leaders often turn the public office into personal.
In his submission, the publisher of Solace Base, Abdullateef believes public offices have been turned into means of getting money.
“Public accountability suffers due to giving preference to personal interest over public interest,” he said. “There is a breach of the public trust because of impunity in governance.”
To report issues of accountability ethically, Bamas, the editor of The ICIR mentioned prerequisites for accountability journalism. According to her, a journalist should conduct in-depth research and know procurement processes, the Institutions and systems, acts and laws that guide procurement among others.