Help! That IDP camp needs your support

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By Charles Okogene
It was not a gathering of journalists to discuss the rot in the industry, especially non payment of salaries and other welfare packages of members of the fourth estate of the realm or a congregation of labour unionists convened to jaw-jaw on their take home at the end of the month with a view to seeking upward review of their salaries; no, it was not. It was a gathering facilitated by Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin led Journalists For Christ (JFC), and the event was the public presentation of a journal, ‘Muffled Voices’ (Extract of findings from a two-month survey of media reports in six newspapers and two online platforms in Nigeria).
The publication, sponsored by the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), Otto Per Mille, Italy provided insights into media reportage of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria.
The well attended gathering became a perfect setting for Mr. Muyiwa Kalajaiye of the Eko FM, to “shake table or ruffle feathers” as we say in this part of the world, when in his response to the challenge harmlessly thrown at the journalists by the reviewer of the journal, Dr. Tola Sunday, who incidentally, is also an accomplished journalism teacher at the University of Lagos (UNILAG). Doc, as he is affectionately referred to by his students, friends and admirers, had innocuously tasked journalists to do more in highlighting the plight of inmates in the numerous IDP camps in Nigeria.
That was the push, Kalajaiye who is pained that his colleagues work so hard with nothing to take home at the end of the month except ‘thank you sir/madam, for yesterday,’ needed to argued that journalists cannot do more than they are doing at present under the excruciating condition of ‘no pay’ they are working in, in most media houses and the numerous bureaucracy, red ‘tappism’ and the hostile attitudes of government officials at the the IDPs who will never grant journalists access into the camps to carry out an indept coverage of the goings on there. He shared, with the audience, the experience he had to go through when he tried to report goings on in an IDP despite the fact that he works with a popular state government owned medium and came in a car that boldly announced his presence. He even mentioned the names of media owners whose outfits are notorious salary abusers to the utmost surprise of all.
He ended his time on the podium by challenging the media owners, to pay their workers as and when due so that they can be alive to their responsibilities while he called on JFC/WACC not to relent in its encouragement to journalists to continue to put the IDPs in the front burner.
Mr. Otufodunrin, had set the ball for the event of the day rolling, when he said in his welcome address “the report was informed by the need to have empirical evidence on the pattern of coverage of the plight of thousands of Nigerians who have over the years been displaced from their homes due to continued conflict situations in the country, especially due to insurgency and terrorists attacks and ensure the required response from government and other stakeholders,” he said,”reports have indicated that those displaced, mostly women and children have resorted to refuge in concentrated camps which are mainly un-used/abandoned school facilities or on open grounds with tents as shelter. There are usually few basic amenities, in such camps, resulting in severe social and health related issues. Welfare; food, proper shelter and health needs are a significant concern. Sanitary conditions are generally poor. Close to 60 per cent of these Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are children.
“Despite the various challenges they have to cope with, media coverage and reportage of IDPs revealed that information on the welfare and living conditions of the IDPs are usually restricted and not adequately reported. Institutional and humanitarian agencies to addressing the needs of IDPs are also inadequate.”
After him came Madam Betty Abbah the executive director  of the Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE) who painted a pathetic picture of what children and women go through in the camps, especially women whom she said sometimes cannot afford or are not provided with simple basic items like sanitary papers.
Mrs Ola Erinfolami of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons  also added her voice as she told the audience all that the agency has been doing and is still doing in the South West area to ameliorate the sufferings of inmates in the camps in Lagos and other states in the geopolitical area and ended up appealing to Nigerians to show their milk of kindness towards the inmates of the camps adding that there are many children of school age in there that are out of school not because they hated western education or civilisation but because they cannot afford school fees.
“There are many kids with us there that can be sponsored to go to school; many of them are out of school. Nothing is too small for them. You can pick the sponsorship of their school fees even for just a term or a session,” she appealed.
The reviewer, Dr. Sunday who in addition to his challenge to journalists, appreciated the organisers of the event for their efforts in putting the richly educating 38-page journal together.
The former editor of Saturday Punch Newspapers who was one of the discussants, narrated some personal experience she had when she visited one of the camps in Benue State and also gave reasons as an editor, she was reluctant to send her reporters to the camps to dig out compelling stories  that can make readers grow goose pimples …..
Some of the reasons she said was because the media house(s) was badly depleted, manpower wise, due to economic downturn and concluded that she had no ‘luxury of time’ to allow a reporter to go for days in pursuit of an IDP Camp story when there are many pages waiting to be filled with other contents. Instead, she called on JFC/WACC to up their games by commissioning independent journalists to do the reportage instead of relying only journalist employed by media houses.
There were others like Madam Laide Akanni, the boss at Journalists Against AIDS, Mr. Wale Fatade, a popular journalist, the Chairman of Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ) Dr.Qasim Akinreti and John Okocha, a filmmaker, all of whom spoke at the event, which took place inside the auditorium of International Press Centre (IPC), Dideolu Court, Ogba in Lagos State.
They all spoke on the decadence in the media industry, which is inhibiting robust reportage not only of IDP Camps but the entire gambit of what constitute news. For minutes Okocha kept the audience glued to their seats when he shared his personal experience at an IDP Camp in Maiduguri, Borno State.

 

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