Associate Professor of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Dr. Oloruntola Sunday has called on the Federal Government to investigate cases of rape and corruption in the Internally Displaced Persons’ camps in Nigeria.
The university teacher made the call during the public presentation of ‘Muffled Voices’, a publication published by Christian media group, Journalists For Christ (JFC) in Lagos recently.
The publication, a product of two months monitoring of six newspapers and two online platforms was sponsored by World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) and Bread for the World, and Waldensian Church’s Otto Per Mille (OPM), Italy.
Reviewing the publication, the Associate Professor noted that the media has not done enough to amplify the voices of IDPs in Nigeria.
“The media should continue to highlight issues that concern those affected by hostilities and conflicts without distractions,” he advised.
He also noted that IDP issues are recorded around the world and not limited to Nigeria.
“The reality is that internally displacement is all over the world now, it is not something we can take with levity again. It is something we should make a deliberate plan for,” he said.
The university don however advocates the domestication of guiding principles supporting IDPs. “We have to domesticate these guiding principles and take proactive measure,” he said.
Advising the government, he said a deliberate policy must be made to support IDPs.
Frowning against rape allegations from the camps and misappropriation of materials meant for the displaced persons, the university teacher advised on a thorough investigation that could unravel issues and bring defaulters to book.
“I want the cases of rape and mismanagement in the IDP camps to be properly investigated. The civil society organisations and everybody should join hand with the government in investigating these crimes,” he demanded.
President of JFC, Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin at the presentation said the media can only become the voice of the IDPs if only journalists are determined to provide adequate reportage of issues surrounding the displaced persons.
“The media can become the voice of the IDPs by ensuring the several issues they are facing are well reported in order to make government and members of the public address their plights,” Otufodunrin said.
Otufodunrin, erstwhile Online Editor and Director, Special Publication at the Nation Newspaper urged media organisations to provide necessary assistance for journalists to report more IDP issues.
Moderating a session, Executive Director of Centre for Children’s Health Education Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE), Betty Abah noted that some of the inmates in the IDP camps are professionals who were caught in the various crises.
“Some of the IDPs are professionals, but when they became IDPs we lump them together. It is so demeaning,” she said.
At the presentation, Assistant Chief Admin-Officer of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI), Mrs. Ola Erinfolami, appealed for necessary support to resettle IDPs in Nigeria.
According to the coordinator, South West Zonal Office of NCFRMI, the camp at Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos is presently sheltering about 10,000 displaced persons including returnees from Libya.
A panelist at the event and erstwhile Sunday Editor at the Punch newspaper, Mrs. Bisi Deji-Folutile said it is difficult for media houses to stay on IDP issues for a prolonged time.
“It is true that as media organisations we have so many things we contend with every day. It is not easy for a media organisation to stay on an issue for a prolonged time,” she said.
The former Punch editor also advised the media should focus more on mis-governance which implications bring about IDPs.
“I think the media should focus on mis-governance and its implications. I know they are doing it but they can do more. If IDPs are products of mis-governance, how can the same government that is not governing properly tackle the product of its mis-governance?
“If we have good governance in place, we shouldn’t be products of self-made problem because it is a man-made problem, not a natural problem and we are not doing anything to tackle it. I think government should tackle mis-governance and its implications,” she said.
Deji-Folutile also observed that not many investigative stories came from the review of the publication.
She also noted that media houses due to several challenges may not be able to sponsor journalists to IDP camps.
“It is unfortunate that a lot of media houses may not be able to sponsor independent coverage of IDPs on a continuous basis. I even want to commend journalists that are working on IDPs because it is a product of their personal convictions.
“The media in Nigeria is also a product of the society. You will agree with me they have economic challenges. The Nigerian media houses are dying, you with think they are there but they are not finding it easy at all. Many media houses are not paying and the few one that are paying put more pressure on the journalists to deliver,” she said.
Another panelist at the presentation and News Editor at Eko FM, Mr. Muyiwa Kalejaiye commended JFC for a job well done.
He however advised the inclusion of those rendered IDPs due to ecological issues in subsequent similar projects.
“While I commend JFC’s effort on the project, I also recommend that it is important they take note of this in further research on further work on media coverage of IDP issues.
“Journalists should not only focus on IDPs displaced by insurgency but should also report those IDPs displaced by other factors for instance erosion has displaced several people in the south east and those people should also be reported,” he advised.
In his remark, Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Lagos Chapter, Dr. Qasim Akinreti enjoined journalists to continue as conscience of the nation and ensure voices of IDPs are not muffled.
Also at the event were chairperson of the National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Lagos Chapter, Mrs. Adeola Ekine, Executive Director, Journalists Against Aids, Olayide Akanni, Wale Fatade, Publisher of Church Times Nigeria, Gbenga Osinaike, a columnist at Daily Independent, Francis Abayomi among other journalists.