That Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government remain the highest employer of labour in Nigeria is an indication that the nation has a perceptibly active civil service. However, that remains to be seen as the activities of most of them seem under reported and not visible enough to attract public interest.
Available records at the Bureau of Public Service Reforms reveal that the Nigeria Civil Service Commission through the various MDAs employs a total of 89,511 civil servants spread across the six geopolitical zones.
While a more visible MDAs will ensure a transparent system, especially within a government which prides itself on its fight against corruption, it is important to note that MDAs that are open and transparent in their functions will enhance citizens’ participation and engagement in governance and also assure of a more inclusive deliberation between the government and the governed.
Again, while many have hidden under the Civil Service information rule which does not allow civil service to freely give out information, it is no longer news that the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 states that citizens should have rights and access to information, except where such information, if given out, will impair national security interests.
We recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had, in an interview with a foreign news medium, expressed worry that the activities and achievements of his administration were under-reported. Sadly, the President was not the first to raise this complaint as the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HOS), Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita had, at a peer review meeting with Federal Permanent Secretaries, lamented same.
It is, therefore, no surprise that the present administration during its re-election bid, was challenged as a result of the under-reportage of some of its achievements in the various MDAs. This was further made worse when the opposition and many other Nigerians argued that little or nothing had been achieved by the present administration in its first four years in office.
This was proved to be not exactly the case when the various sectors and MDAs made efforts to unveil their achievements. It became obvious that the allegation of non-performance on the part of the federal government was not correct as a lot was achieved by the various sectors.
The reasons for this none visibility, in the opinion of this newspaper, can be blamed on a number of factors ranging from alleged poor funding for media and publicity activities, corruption as many MDAs tend to divert the actual funds released for media and publicity to other purposes as well as overwhelming bureaucratic red tape involved in attempts to access funds for media and publicity among several others.
Interestingly, in our view, it is important to note that a visible MDAs guarantees transparency, citizens’ engagement and shows the contribution of government to economic and social development.
In assuring the visibility of MDAs, we are persuaded to recommend that MDAs should take advantage of the law which advocates a ‘need to know’ for citizens and which also allows such MDAs to actively advertise all services to allow for proper information. MDAs should take advantage of their beat reporters to ensure proper coverage of their activities and make themselves available to give information and grant interviews were necessary.
It is pertinent to stress that with the emergence of social media, news tend to move faster. As such MDAs, in addition to updating their websites, must take advantage of core social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Websites and other Online Media platforms to communicate and inform the masses.
Poor coverage of the MDAs in the public space hinders information from getting to those who should know, it defies the transparency programmes of government and denies citizens of actively participating in governance.
The argument that most MDAs are underfunded to provide visibility to their activities, however, remains debatable as it is on record that all MDAs have media and Publicity captured in their annual budgets.
As these administration sets to begin its second term, it becomes a matter of urgency that MDAs must, necessarily, take advantage of all platforms to ensure effective distribution of their achievements. This will also give citizens an insight into the performance of the administration while allowing room for the government and the governed to interact on mutually beneficial basis and in a manner that will build confidence, one in the other, smoothen the governance processes and aid development in all spheres of national life.
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