It is appalling that corrupt practices in the nation’s public offices prevail unnoticed. The dimension it takes is hard to understand by Nigerians outside the media.
I am speaking from my experience as an education correspondent at Blueprint Newspapers with a mandate to report activities in the Federal Ministry of Education (FME), Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and recently, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND).
I took my introduction letters to FME and UBEC in the first week of December 2017. The letter was received and acknowledged, but throughout 2017 and 2018, and up till date, these agencies never care to send to me notice of functions, or press release. Any function I attended was happen stance, or through the invitation of a fellow journalist. For the umpteenth time, I confronted officials in FME press office, who promised to consider Blueprint, but immediately I left their office, that was all to it.
When Ben Bem Goong became deputy director in charge of press, I complained to him and he personally took my contacts with the promise to do with Blueprint newspapers like other dailies, but it is still the same old song.
When I confronted him towards the end of 2018 for not informing me on press conference the ministry organised for journalists, he said the exclusion was not intentional, but due to operational problems.
“Sorry my brother, there were operational challenges which we have overcome. You will have invitations from now on,” Goong said in SMS.
After that several education conferences were held without invitations and press releases were issued to media houses leaving Blueprint Newspapers.
Similarly, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), like FME, hoards news, notices and press releases from Blueprint.
Since 2017 when I was introduced in their office as education correspondent, they only sent pictures and news on two occasions, after I told to the head of press in the commission, Mr Ossom Ossom, my disappointment.
In January this year, in frustration, I sent a text message demanding to know why I should be excluded from UBEC’s press releases, notices and invitations, Mr Ossom called me and apologised, promising to do with Blueprint henceforth but to no avail.
For TETFund, my introduction letter was received on November 21, 2018, and up till now, acknowledgement has not been received in our office, despite the fact that I haved complained to their director of public affairs and started reporting their activities.
The funny thing is that these agencies are linked to the Education Correspondents Association of Nigeria (ECAN), which I was a member.
The agencies, for technical or selfish reasons, prefer to deal with ECAN leaders instead of individual journalists who will disseminate information that is important for national growth and development. They don’t care about the spread of the news but preferred doctored news from an association whose primary objective is the pecuniary gains from agency heads.
Usually, after a function, the head of press of a concerned agency goes to the leaders of ECAN for “peace talks”, and in the following day, stipends will be given to friendly media houses.
More often than not, I complained to ECAN officials who told me that they would not deal with me directly but with Mr Paul Martins who was an education correspondent at Blueprint with whom I worked before his disengagement from Blueprint service in the middle of 2018.
When Mr. Martins left, I appealed to them to send notices of conferences and functions to me but to no avail. Why? They prefer small number of journalists in an event so that the tips press directors give would be enough for them,
I think this is bad for democracy.
Uji writes from Blueprint Newspapers