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PRAISE SINGERS GO TO "GREET" NEW GMD NNPC

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If journalism is to have meaning, to fulfill its raison d'etre, then it must be about speaking truth to power;  giving a voice to the voiceless. The National Chairman of  the National Association of Energy Correspondents of Nigeria (NAEC)  Olatunde Dodondawa led a group of his executives on a courtesy visit to greet the newly installed Group Managing Director(GMD) of the National Oil company, NNPC. He  said the visit was informed by the track records (sic)of the GMD.

“We normally don’t pay courtesy visits, but having monitored your performance in the past, members of the association overwhelmingly voted that we must pay a courtesy visit to this wonderful GMD to tell him that we are ready to support him toachieve his agenda of revamping the refineries and upgrading NNPC operations in a transparent manner”, Dododawa stated.

 

There are people out there that might think Olatunde was a tad too syncophantic in his gushing praise for the new GMD and thats a poor quality in  any decent journalist. That any journalist worth his salt might have enumerated the GMD's myriad of achievements in support of his praise for the GMD. They would be right. What makes it even more ridiculous is his revelation that the visit only came about as a consequence of a  as a result of a ballot. Surely in the time honoured journalistic  fashion  an editorial or article in their respective newspapers should  have been sufficient to convey any such admiration or support for the GMD and therein lies the problem.

 

Moreover Olatunde's statement is hugely problematic as he should well know. During Mele Kolo Kyari's tenor as Group General Manager (GGM) Crude Oil Marketing Division (COMD) was there increased transparency in the award of Nigerian equity crude contracts or the Direct Sales Direct Purchase scheme (DSDP)?. Was there any transparency at all? Did he introduce any innovative strategy such as the common sense of hedging crude products so in the event of another crude oil price crash the country would not plunge yet again into a catastrophic  recession? or perhaps there were no calamitous fuel shortages when the DSDP scheme completely collapsed. Quite what Olatunde and the NAEC have been monitoring is pure conjecture and anyone’s guess.

 It is certainly not news that the fourth estate of the realm has failed abysmally in Nigeria and  cannot  be relied upon to hold any public office holder to account. The cozy relationship that exists between journalists and public office holders has mutated the former into praise singers of the latter for most parts .

 While some  journalists may be  unaware of the exact wording of their code of conduct and may struggle to recite the precise wording of the code, the cardinal principles which underpin ethical journalism are largely well understood. They are instantly recognisable as a shared and common basis for journalism. These fundamental values are, accountability and transparency,fairness and impartiality, accuracy and independence. Crucially the Professional Journalist tests the accuracy of information,proceeds cautiously, and does not distort the truth.

 

NNPC have a very active Public Affairs Division led by a Group General Manager Ndu Ughamadu which acts as a press office for the corporation to flood the public domain with disinformation and "fake news". In a statement it quoted the GMD assaying that the corporation has identified the association (NAEC) as a critical stakeholder to work with for the growth of the energy industry.

The GMD went further, " the work of the energy correspondents is just like the energy sector that contributes 80 – 90% of the nation’s revenue, that means literarily, your reporting contributes to that per cent in the value of journalism in the country”,

 He urged the body to join the corporation’s drive to change the negative narrative about the oil and gas industry by being factual in their reportage of the efforts of the corporation in revamping the refineries and other oil and gas infrastructure.

 Setting aside his questionable  logic for a moment, his intention are clear. His entreaty is  an invitation for the correspondents to abandon any ethical journalistic considerations or ethics and become  NNPC Acolytes . The GMD's characterisation of negative reporting seems to infer that the reports on NNPC's abortive and unsuccessful effort to revamp the refineries were some how in factual. Yet the refineries after numerous broken promises by the NNPC remain unproductive scrap costing the country a fortune. If I were to allow my cynicism to get the better of me, I would suspect the Group General Manager Ndu Ughamadu of setting up the meeting, some members of the NAEC  felt uncomfortable attending (thus the ballot) and all choreographed by the new GMD.

 

Strategically it is the right move for the GMD, suborning the press diminishes public scrutiny and manages public opinion. Getting the energy press to adopt the corporations hymn sheet is an objective worth pursuing. The post of GMD or CEO of NNPC is the most powerful and influential none elected position in Nigeria. to hold the position is to exercise the power to  bestow wealth and privilege. The unfettered ability to instantly change the fortunes of anyone creates a demi-god whose potential patronage  weilds so much power they are never held to account. Little wonder in the sector of a country that has seen unelected patrons bequeath huge assets and wealth to favoured individuals, the National Association of Energy Correspondents voted overwhelmingly to visit the GMD

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