The National Orientation Agency (NOA), may have lost the vibrancy it was noted for in public enlightenment when Prof Jerry Gana was the helmsman. Still, the potential are still there for it to explore, exploit and actualise in terms of propagating government activities and enlightening the Nigerian public on various policies and programmes. Curiously, in our view, the agency is still struggling to explain and educate the people on some decisions of the nascent Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration. Nigerians had expected that the agency ought to come out with well-articulated public enlightenment jingles on most recent monetary policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the removal of fuel subsidy, for instance.
This newspaper is of the opinion that a public enlightenment intervention by the NOA could have mitigated the confusion and crisis faced nationwide following the implementation of those policies. With offices in all the 774 LGAs of the country, NOA had no excuse not to have deployed its personnel to educate and disseminate information on those and other activities of government.
It is pertinent to point out that the fuel subsidy removal is still generating heat across the country just as the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) is using it as a pedestal to take on the administration with a threat of indefinite strike. It is sad, in our view, that NOA is yet to appreciate the fact that it is an issue of national importance for which it has a statutory responsibility to inform and educate the public about.
The agency was established on August 23, 1993 by the Gen Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida administration to raise the consciousness of Nigerians about key decisions of government.
However, and in fairness to the agency, part of its challenges is that successive governments have continued to treat it as another civil service outfit just there to pay salaries to workers. When it was established, it was under the Presidency. During the administration of President Obasanjo, it was still under the Presidency supervised by a Senior Special Assistant. Its relevance was down-graded when it was moved to the ministry of Information. That was when it started having issues that have continued to plague its performance till date.
The plight of NOA ought to be a cause for concern to the government especially as the administration is beset by challenges that require a strong and effective national orientation programme designed to forcefully explain the details of reasoning that undergirds certain decisions. Nigeria is currently a deeply divided country with a history of ethno-political and religious tensions. Not to mention the economic hardships that are so prevalent. This is the time for NOA to be really alive and active.
We are compelled by the demands of the time to urge NOA to wake up to its mandate and work towards promoting a sense of national identity that transcends ethnic, political and religious differences.
Again, Nigeria is facing security challenges that threaten the lives and livelihoods of the citizens. The NOA needs to play a more active role in promoting security consciousness and civic responsibility among Nigerians. This can be done through the dissemination of information on security threats and the sensitisation of citizens on their roles in maintaining law and order. The agency can also work with relevant stakeholders to promote conflict resolution and peace-building initiatives.
The challenges facing Nigeria are numerous and require a strong and effective national orientation agency to tackle. This is where NOA comes in committed towards promoting a sense of national identity that transcends ethnic and religious differences.
The argument by the agency to counter allegations of palpable inactive participation in public discourse is, readily, paucity of funds. But, in our considered opinion, no institution of government or an individual for that matter, will ever have all the resources they need for the execution of their plans and programmes. Like most government agencies, NOA has continued to have its fair share of mismanaging the little resources available through misapplication of fund as well as misplacement of priorities.
We note that at a time, it was reported that the agency spent a whopping N2 billion on loans to staff. That is certainly inexplicable in a situation where it is urgently expected to play key roles in the propagation of government policies. To the best of the understanding of this newspaper, NOA is not a financial institution and, therefore, has no business getting involved in the financial needs of its staff to the point of prioritizing it over and above the major task assigned to it.
Meanwhile, we appeal to government to fortify the agency with the resources it requires at this time. We are concerned that government activities, policies and programmes are not properly explained to the public in a manner intended to carry them along. The agency, in our opinion, can help in this regard with adequate provision of resources judiciously managed. It may even be appropriate to return it to the Presidency.