Monday, July 25, 2011

The Guardian Wins three award at International ArtExpo

At the first international ArtExpo organised by the Arts Galleries Association of Nigeria (AGAN) at the weekend, The Guardian Newspaper won the Paper of the year category for Arts reporting among other News Papers that was nominated for the same award: 234 Next, National Compass, Daily Mirror, The Nation, The Sun, ThisDay, Vanguard and the Punch.

The ArtExpo also gave the award for the Arts Editor of the Year category to the Editor, Sunday Guardian, Jahaman Anikulapo winning other norminees; Okeychukwu Uwaezeouke, Molara Wood, Macphilipps Nwachukwu , Sola Balogun. While Tajudeen Sowole, of the Guardian too won the Best Art Journalist of the year category.

Speaking at the event The Head, Event Planning Committee of AGAN, Juliet Ezenwa-Pearce, who described the awards given as a celebration of artists and stakeholders. “We these awards to celebrate artists who produce out standing works as well as appreciate patrons, collectors and sponsors for their consistent patronage and funding of our exhibitions and events.”

The event, as first of its kind in the visual arts sector, it attracted every segment of the creative industry as individuals, groups and the corporate organizations, who have contributed to the development of Nigerian art in the last one year.

She added “the nominations and the voting were done strictly by the artiste themselves and this is a welcome development to the improvement of arts in the country.”

Stakeholders present at the award ceremony; The Commissional for Culture Ondo State, Tola Wewe, Yemisi Shyllon, Chief and Mrs. Rasheed Gbadamosi, Former National Art Gallery boss,Chief Joe Musa, The SAN chairman Oliver Ewunowun, Frank Okonta, among others.

Confronting the challenges of implementing FoI law


The euphoria of joy that trailed the enactment of Freedom of Information Act is giving way to the real business of implementing the legislation that is expected to bring about transparency and accountability in governance

THIS concern was the focus of the Town Hall meeting with the theme: For the Public Purpose: Deepening the FoI Act, organised by Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) which held at MUSON Centre, Onikan attracting eminent personalities in the media, legal profession, civil society and the diplomatic community.

In his opening address, the chairman of the occasion, Alhaji Ismaila Isa Funtua dismissed the impression created by Nigerians that the FoI Act was meant for the media alone, one challenge, which, he stressed, delayed the passage of the bill.

“Many have the wrong impression about the Freedom of Information Act, they regard it as a media act, but it is not true, the Freedom of Information Act is meant for the public. Some of us know what we went through to get the bill passed into law. Some of us went to prison especially when they tried to introduce the Press Council Bill during the late General Sani Abacha regime,” he said.

Funtua, as Chairman, Nigerian Institute of Journalism explained that, “we know the security risks we took in ensuring that such a bill (Nigeria Press Council law) did not see the light of day. We were eventually saved by the law courts, they were wrong, we were right. The same thing cannot be said about the broadcast media because today,” as the impression is that the broadcast sector is over regulated, “as a result of the bad law.”

The Niger State Governor, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, said: “We should be concerned about enlightening people and adopting the law in every state of the federation. The FoI Act is not only for the media but indeed for Nigerians.”

He charged the media and civil society to mount continuous pressure on the government to implement the FoI Act, pointing out that the nation’s government must be prepared to fund the implementation of the Act for it to be effective.

In her presentation, Canadian Information Commissioner, Ms. Suzanne Leagault, emphasised the central role of the leadership to achieve effective implementation of the FoI Act, adding that the implementation must be well-funded.

She harped on the need for the media to play a frontline role, though strongly warned against the impression that the FoI Act “is only enacted for the media. It is meant for the entire people of Nigeria”.

She also highlighted the role of the judiciary, the media, the business community, civil society and leadership in all walks of life, without which she said the implementation of the FoI Act would be elusive.

She shared her experience with a crop of the country’s leaders at a forum recently, when she said most of them expressed a view that the FoI Act would address all the issues that Nigeria “is facing, especially the issue of corruption”.

She explained that all the people she engaged at the forum on the subject of the FoI Act mentioned the issue of political intervention as a major challenge to the implementation of the Act, while the same set of people expressed fear that the legislature was a main opponent to public disclosure.

She also spoke on the cost of obtaining public information, which she said “is appropriate to measure... It will cost Nigeria money. But it is a decision that Nigeria has to make, if the FoI Act must succeed”.

According to her, the media would not be sufficient to put pressure on the government. The entire people of Nigeria must be involved to ensure that the FoI Act works.

To make it work, institution-building, training, leadership and organisational public information will be essential to make the Act work, she said.

Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) noted that governance is a matter of public trust, that the people “have rights to ask questions on how we are spending their resources. The FoI Act is not the legislation for the press alone. It is for the people of Nigeria. But the press and civil society organisations will be at the vanguard of the implementation of the Act.

“The leadership will have a role to play too. The judiciary, especially, is central to the FoI Act. Justices must not be just familiar with the FoI Act, but also to societal happenings. I have already directed the Office of the Head of Service to run training for all the public servants on the FoI Act,” he explained.

The governor also said the State House of Assembly had started the process of replicating the FoI Act, a development which he said demonstrated the will of his administration to implement the Act.

He urged the public to be patient with the public officials in the process of seeking some vital information, which according to him, costs time and resources before their request could be addressed.

Mohammed Bello Adoke, Attorney General of the Federation, who was represented by Professor Akpe, identified some challenges in the implementation of the law which include the application and use of right by the citizens, saying, “if the right of the citizen is abused or used frivolously, it will pose a challenge to the law.

“With the state of record keeping in the country, it might be very difficult for public officers to meet up with the stipulated seven days in the Act. Some of the information that might be requested by people might not be easily available within seven days, as stipulated by the Act.

“The government is thinking of a way of restructuring the courts to make them cope with the expected barrage of litigations that will arise as a result of the Act and ensure that they still discharge their duties effectively.”

He revealed that the Ministry of Justice had dedicated a department, the Citizens Rights Department, to begin sensitizing people on the workings and implementation of the Act.

He also observed that it might not be possible to provide information within seven days as stipulated by the law, as some public records are not in proper shape. Adoke stressed that retrieval of some information may take more days, as it is the case in the USA, where access to the Information Act requires 20 working days.

In his submission, Anslem Chidi Odinkalu, the African Programme Director of Open Society Initiative, lamented that public interest had been undermined by public officers. “We can’t therefore give out what is public interest. FOI has ended the monopoly of the hoarding of information under the pretext of public interest,” he declared.

Tayo Oyetibo, legal adviser to NPAN pointed out that the public information officer position was absent in the law. According to him, applicants may be confused on whom to address their applications to and who should be held accountable for failure of provision of information.

Another challenge of the law, he said, “there is no provision for verification or authentication of information supplied.” Oyetibo explained that all information at the possession of government, whether the event happened before the Act came into law or not could be asked for.

On deepening the FOIA, former President of Civil Liberties Organisation, Ms Ayo Obe said Nigerians are standing on one leg. She called for openness in governance and the office of the AGF should be proactive and not allowed to be sued to court on violation of FOIA.

“We need the openness and objectiveness of government to deepen the Act. Public officials must ensure that information on their activities are properly compiled and documented, so as to ease dissemination.”

Prof. Wole Soyinka, the keynote presenter said “the government should put the FoI Act to test. Nigeria can’t deny freedom of information to its citizens if it believes in absolute truth. It is not enough for a government to resort to the Official Secrets Act and it is not enough for the public to continually accept that as an excuse to confuse issues in which public issues are involved. The checks and balances of government must answer to public scrutiny.

He explained that, “in this country, we have a situation where a whole human being was concealed for several months. This human being travelled to Dubai and Saudi Arabia, as the case may be. This same individual returned to the country, the lights were put off at the airports; this phantom was transported to the seat of power and many other places. This individual was no less a person, but one responsible to the entire country.

“Nigerians would like to know how this was possible, who are the people involved? What document was passed as the Appropriation Bill? Whose signature appeared on that document? We would like to know, which members of his family were involved, the members of the government involved, members of the Senate involved, the foreign powers involved.

“I am aware that President Jonathan has set up a commission of enquiry into the issue. That episode is over, but knowledge is unending and so, I am challenging the government of Jonathan and the public to put this Freedom of Information Act to test with the melodramatic incident that happened in this country for more than one year.

“I have a right to know and I am compelling President Jonathan to proceed with this Act by setting up the proceeding and panel that will find out what happened to the late president within this period”.

Speaking further, he said “any social instrument is incomplete, but it is the people that will make it complete. Let us not worry that the document is incomplete but we must test the Freedom of Information Act. If there is no Freedom of Information, then, there will be speculation and if there is speculation, you will have a revolution.”

Fashola later commended the NPAN leadership saying that “one must commend the leadership of NPAN led by Nduka Obaigbena and our perspective of it is demonstrated by our partnership with the initiative within. Now that the law has been enacted, we must begin to sensitize Nigerians about the right that is conferred upon them and the duty that it imposes on them.

“And this is one of the very first of what I believe should be many of the steps that would further bring the impact of the legislation home to our people and expose the many myths that surround it.”

Sony introduces internet Television in Nigeria


As communication is gradually converging, Sony Gulf, has introduced 20 internet enabled Sony BRAVIA television models into the Nigerian market.

According to the Managing Director, Sony Gulf, Osamu Miura, during the unveiling at the weekend said BRAVIA Televisions features latest LCD/LED, 3D & internet technologies, VAIO laptops, Cyber-shot digital still cameras, and Handycam camcorders are some of the categories that are performing extremely well in this region.

Miura said the products is aimed at redefining home entertainment to meet the needs of today’s contemporary and savvy consumer because the 2011 BRAVIA LCD/LED TV series offers smarter, sophisticated and more social entertainment that redefines the television experience.

“First there was the television that was a mere display device for passive viewing, then came the internet which was personal and interactive, and revolutionised the way people communicated. And now, we cannot imagine life without the internet. Today, we introduce the new Sony Internet TV that combines the joys of watching high quality HD and 3D content, with the leisure of accessing the internet and social networking sites, along with a seamless connectivity with various devices such as mobile phones, the PlayStation 3 and Blu-ray disc players.”

He stressed that there has been a surge in the growth and popularity of social networking sites in Africa, with over 3 million Facebook users in Nigeria. “For Sony, these numbers are very encouraging as we aggressively execute our strategy to become the leading provider of networked entertainment. Consumers will now be able to enjoy a broader range of internet entertainment services from Sony and others, well beyond the standard video offerings provided by cable and satellite programming.”

Africa and the Middle East, according to the Sony boss are extremely important markets for the company because of the number of emerging markets with high potential, these include Nigeria, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Pakistan and Angola. It is also a good market for high value, latest technology and products and a market that has displayed consistent double-digit growth over the years. To this end, the company has budgeted approximately US$ 70 million for marketing its products in the Middle East and Africa region.

Breeze… propagating investment culture through Nollywood


As part of activities towards celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) has packaged of a movie billed for release in October 2011, which on educate Nigerians on why they should develop an investing culture.

Directed by Kunle Afolayan, titled Breeze after the eponymous heroine, is a feature–length comedy that communicates with Nigerian public, encouraging and educating them on financial planning, investment option and the danger of profligate spending.

Director–General of SEC, Arunma Oteh, at the briefing on Tuesday in Lagos said, her agency’s collaboration is to reach out to the general pubic using a medium that has long been popular with Nigerians both at home and abroad. “SEC’s collaboration with Nollywood is the first time a public institution will use Nigeria’s far reaching movie industry to spread a message formally,” he said.

The movie is centered on a popular, loving, hilarious and extravagant character, Grace nicknamed Breeze, who believes in self, skin and beautiful investment. She lives the good life and has a spouse who dotes on her and spoils her completely. The character has a good intention and quite intelligent just completely misdirected.

She has a best friend, Bridget; they share a birthday and have been best of friends since primary school. Bridget is sensible and hardworking but has a more ordinary life. She is a single mother of twin for a man who denied responsibility of her pregnancy. She works in professional job and is the sole career for the boy. She believes in the value of investing.

A major incident occurs in the sudden death of Grace’s husband leaving her to fend for herself and her family. With no job experience whatsoever and no income; life becomes tough. The rest of the story revolves around Grace’s acceptance of her new situation and coping with the difficulties life has thrown at her through humour and determination.

The key message in the movie is how important it is to invest instead of spending lavishly. It stars Ayo Adesanya, Yemi Solade, Edmond Enaibe, Hafiz Oyetoro, Joan Agabi, Chioma Chukwuka and Janet Odogwu.

How to make FoI Act work, by Soyinka, govs, others


Any social instrument is incomplete. It is human beings that will complete it. We should not be worried whether the law would be abused or not because a lot of laws are abused in Nigeria everyday. Even the constitution is abused every day in Nigeria.

EMINENT Nigerians, including Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka and Governors Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), yesterday brainstormed on the implementation of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act for national development, urging all stakeholders to make the new law work.

At a roundtable organised by the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) in Lagos, participants noted that though there are gray areas in the FoI Act, its enactment was a good development.

Soyinka, said nobody should be worried about whether the relevant public Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) will implement the provisions of the Act or not since it is already in existence, adding that violation of laws is a daily occurrence in Nigeria. According to him, there must be inadequacy in any social instrument, but it is the people that will make it adequate.

“Any social instrument is incomplete. It is human beings that will complete it. We should not be worried whether the law would be abused or not because a lot of laws are abused in Nigeria everyday. Even the constitution is abused every day in Nigeria,” Soyinka said.

According to him, “if there is no freedom of information, there will be speculations. Speculation leads to rumour and that does not augur well for us as a nation. Part of what makes a citizen of any nation is his right to be able to access information on how he is being governed.” He said most of the interviews he listened to about the civil disobedience in the Middle East and North Africa arose as a result of people getting tired of being in the dark as to how they are being governed.

According to Soyinka, a true test of the passed FoI Act would be for Nigerians to know what really happened when the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was concealed with officers who played one role or the other in the process, revealing the parts they played in the whole exercise. According to him, if not for any other thing, it should be for knowledge sake.

Other dignitaries present at the well-attended event include Publishers of Vanguard, Sam Amuka-Pemu; ThisDay, Nduka Obaigbena, and Source Magazine, Comfort Obi; Board Chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu; Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN); former Finance Minister, Chief Kalu Idika Kalu; former Chief Executive Officer of the Newswatch Communications Limited, Mr. Ray Ekpu; Human Rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana; Head of Department, Mass Communications, University of Lagos, Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye; Chief Operating Officer of The Guardian, Alex Thomopoulos; Canadian High Commissioner as well as the President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Mr. Gbenga Adefeye.

In his comments, Governor Aliyu suggested that for the FoI Act to be more effective, it should be named Freedom of Information and Sanctity Act. According to him, the Act should also provide that the person requesting for any information should also have the powers to verify the accuracy of the information being given.

Governor Fashola stated that he had been operating an open door policy and transparent government even before the Act came into being. According to him, information about the cost of contracts can be obtained freely at the government’s website.

Clarifying that the FoI Act is not a media law, Odinkalu said it was rather designed to ensure equality of access to information and participation of citizens in government.

His words: “The main objective of the law is to ensure that every person who desires to know how government operates can do so with minimum effort and diligence. The rights in the Act can be exercised by both individuals and corporate persons. Hopefully, armed with such information, people can take the necessary steps to work with government, make informed decisions, and organise to hold government and public officials accountable.”

Section 4 and 5 of the FoI Act provides that a public institution must grant access to a request for records or information within a time limit of seven days. But the Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke (SAN), speaking through his senior special assistant, pleaded for the understanding of Nigerians on the possible difficulties that may hinder public institutions from complying with the seven days time limit provided by the law, a plea which drew criticisms from some of the participants who felt that it was too early for the AG to begin to give excuses for the perceived failure of public institutions to comply with the law.

The minister said “the challenges are that some of the information required may not be readily available within seven days,” insisting that the official secret Act should also be looked into with a view to either abrogating or amending it.

The FoI law places the responsibility and obligation for the proper implementation of the provisions of the law on the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Macleans Partners Passion House To Clean Amukoko

Macleans, the toothpaste brand from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Plc, has partnered with Passion House to clean up Amukoko, a suburb in Ifelodun Local Council Development Area of Lagos State.

The collaboration with the non-governmental organisation was supported by the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) to clean major zones in Amukoko. GSK also provided free dental checks and product sampling to over 1,000 residents.

Human Resources Director GSK, Michael Shobowale; Chairperson, Ifelodun Local Council Development Area, Alhaja Kudirat Adigun; Environmental Health Officer, Ifelodun LCDA, Richard Tella, and other top management team of the company, as well as students participated in the clean-up exercise.

Speaking during the exercise, Shobowale noted that there is a strong synergy between a healthy environment and a healthy oral cavity. He said the initiative was informed by the idea to complement government’s efforts in keeping the drainage and streets clean during the raining season.

“We are here to restate our commitment to environmental fortification and assure our consumers of quality product that is able to strengthen their teeth from inside out. It is also to play out our mission of improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer,” Shobowale said.

He further explained that the exercise has shown great commitment to promoting, protecting and educating Nigerians on the need to take good care of their oral cavity by supporting various initiatives over the years.

“Macleans collaborated with the Lagos State Ministry of Health to improve oral hygiene in schools. We supported communities this year through our Community for Dental Health Education Scheme with the help of final year Dental students in universities,” he enumerated.

Tella commended GSK for the promotion of oral hygiene in Nigeria. “Environmental cleanup should be a joint effort of government, corporate bodies and individuals. I am excited about this team to clean Amukoko and the contributions of the free dental check to residents.

“It is a welcome partnership at this time of the year when drainages need to be unblocked from dirt and debris. If every organisation sees the need to give back to society, we will not only have a better place, but a healthier nation,” he explained.

For the Executive Director, Passion House, Alex Akhigbe, the partnership with Macleans was borne out of the fact that the brand is known for helping people keep healthy by having good oral hygiene.

“We are jointly committed to giving back to the community, by educating the people on the importance of clean and healthy environment which is what we are all out to achieve by cleaning the streets of Amukoko, as we did in Mushin and Ajegunle.”

Representative of LAWMA, Gbenga Fagbola, restated the government’s commitment to keeping the communities healthy and clean.