Niger Delta states will be financially stable if oil coys relocate headquarters, says Duba
Journalist, teacher and politician, Ayibaina Duba is Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information and Orientation. He spoke about the challenges of managing government information in the era of fake news, assuring that his ministry will strive to instill trust
How do you to actualise the vision of the present administration for Bayelsa State?
You know that dissemination of information is not just giving out information for its own sake. We all know that there is a lot of misinformation that can cause a lot of problems. I understand the problem that would arise when government is not communicating properly. The ministry under my watch, with the direction of the governor of the state, will give out to the public information that is truthful no matter the slant, because if you don’t project exact information to the people, there is a tendency for people to dwell on misinformation and begin to act otherwise. And you know, these are trying times globally. People mistrust government and it is not just in Nigeria; it happens all over the world. The issue of fake news and all kinds of messages are everywhere. Sometimes, you don’t even know what to take.
So we need to do the proper thing as a government. If the governor says we are doing this or this is the policy of government, the ministry and all of us who manage information should be able to make it clear so that people will understand what government is doing. When everything is shrouded in secrecy people tend to have different interpretation. And in communication, they tell you that when you communicate, by the time a third party gets the information, some of the essence of your message would have changed.
We have local governments, communities and villages; we have agreed that NDTV and the radio are doing their job despite challenges. The area we need to concentrate on is giving visuals to the people. The bulk of our people don’t need to see DSTV. Most of our people don’t have the resources to even see what we are doing. So, we want to use NDTV to reach out to the people the same way the radio is working. In radio, you don’t see the visuals; you only hear, but when NDTV is working, as a civil servant, when you get back home, even if they are doing it for five hours, he gets to see it. Let what government is doing be seen by the people. It has nothing to do with elections. Whatever government is doing, people should know; we want to reactivate this public address system. I have told the director of public enlightenment unit in the ministry to start working. We need to do what was done years ago when we had town criers and others.
The Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission recently paid the state government a courtesy visit. The challenge now is to have the oil majors relocate their headquarters to the Niger Delta to shore up revenues and take the states out of the list of poorest states. How is your government taking that?
Almost over 20 years ago when I was the leader of the House, even before the 13 per cent derivation was approved, the House took a tour. I remember speaking in most of the meetings. For nearly 20 years plus, we have been on this. When taxes are paid, they only go to where the head offices of these companies are located and we said, ‘no, that is wrong.’
We have been on this thing for a long time. What they did was cosmetic, because it did not last long. Shell came here at Opolo, opened an office; Taxco came, opened an office; Agip came and opened an office. But all these offices did not last more than a year and when they left, we did not even know. When people talk about restructuring, people think it is a total upturning of status quo. These are some of the issues people are talking about.
One of the charges the governor gave to commissioners was for you to be innovative and creative. What innovations do you see the different ministries coming up within that regard?
We have very responsible and competent cabinet members; it will be unwise for me to assume that I know what each is doing. But the good thing is that all of us agreed that whatever is happening in any ministry, the ministry of information should be aware so we could tell the general public what the government is doing. And since that charge was given, everybody embraced it. If you remember, we were sworn in on Tuesday, and by Wednesday, we had our first executive meeting. From that Thursday and Friday, everybody has been busy consulting, meeting with directors and trying to know what is happening. At the last executive meeting we had, everybody presented his vision for his ministry. So, I know that everybody is working.
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