Abuja - The Senate on Wednesday directed the Federal Ministry of Information to rework its 2016 budget and make provisions for effective media operations in the North-East.
The Committee on Information Chaired by Sen. Eyinaya Abaribe (PDP Abia South) said that the ministry should provide a budget that would cater for the needs of its media agencies in that regard.
The position of the committee was sequel to remarks by a member, Se. Ben Bruce, who recalled that during the civil war in the country, the media were effectively used to propagate relevant information.
Bruce recalled that during the war, radio was an effective way of communication and should also be employed in the war in the North-East.
He stressed that information had not been effectively used in the war against insurgency, and suggested that federal media organisations should be allowed to carter for the needs in the budget.
He advocated the use of mobile television and radio stations that could not be easily spotted or destroyed by the insurgent group.
Consequently, the committee appealed to Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and Voice of Nigeria (VON) to add the required components to the budget.
"It would have made more sense for the information budget of the Army to be given to the Ministry of Information, to equip these stations to be used by the military as a source of communication."
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"For instance, if there is going to be an air raid in a particular area, we can warn the citizens to stay off that particular area."
"The media can be used like when Buhari did in 1983 for War against Indiscipline, War against Corruption; so, National Orientation should use the medium that we have."
"I want to ask passionately that they resubmit their budget, taking care of the North-East because people are dying."
"This is not the question of spending money recklessly; so, I appeal that the budget be resubmitted, taking care of their needs in the North-East; it is very important,” Abaribe said.
In his remark, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, commended the committee for identifying the need for special attention for the North-East and said that the ministry was already partnering the military on information dissemination.
He lamented that activities of the ministry had been hampered over the years by inadequate funding, whose effect extended to its agencies.
Mohammed disclosed that out of an annual budget of N600 million for VON, only about N120 million was released.
He told the committee that an inter-ministerial committee had been established on information management on the insurgency.
"We realized that the last bit of the war is the severe component of the war and these are the major stakeholders."
"FRCN, NAN, NTA and VON have given me their schedules and at times, we have use like 16 slots within an hour to propagate this message."
"So, we agree with you but we are doing something about it and we are working very closely with the military on this; most of the information we have we got them from the military."
"We quite agree with you that the military should work with the ministry; we will improve on it but it is already ongoing,” he said.