Home Interview INTERVIEW: “President Tinubu Is Not Contemplating, Or Gagging Nigerian Press,...

INTERVIEW: “President Tinubu Is Not Contemplating, Or Gagging Nigerian Press, “….. Mohammed Idris 

Minister of Information, Alhaji Mohammed Idris during the press briefing

The Honourable Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Mohammed Idris fnipr, at the National Press Centre, radio House Abuja on Friday had an interactive session with journalists. Below is a transcript of the Questions and Answers session.

 

Excerpts

 

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I want to know what direction this ministry will adopt in managing or handling the issues of social media, fake news, misinformation, and disinformation.?

 

 

What I have said since I assumed this role, is that, firstly, the President has assured all Nigerians that every information that is supposed to be made available to Nigerians would be provided to them on time, honestly, and credibly; that is the starting point. I have always also said that Mr. President is desirous of pushing the frontiers of freedom of expression, but that freedom comes with enormous responsibility.The social media issue is not just a problem for Nigeria; It is a global phenomenon.The government is desirous of cleaning up the space and ensuring that only credible news is transmitted to Nigerians. There is an international collaboration to develop a roadmap for a global approach to the issue of misinformation and disinformation and Nigeria is part of that process. In the meantime, it is pertinent that all of you know that the President is not contemplating, or gagging the Nigerian press, he runs an open government. The President himself being a democrat believes in freedom of expression, and it is important that all of us uphold that as we push out information on social media which has become part of our daily lives. It is crucial that we refocus our values and prioritize truth and honesty in all our communication. There is no place for fake news in our society, and we must unite in our fight against it while safeguarding press freedom in our country. As the Federal government’s official spokesman.

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What will be your reaction to the recent judgments by a court in Enugu state which overturned the proscription of IPOB, and will government appeal that judgement?

Talking about the judgement in Enugu state, the Federal government is studying it and will come up with an informed position on that, very soon.

Shortly after your inauguration, you assured Nigerians that national orientation will be at the core of this Ministry’s activities. Now that you have your foot soldiers ready, talking about the new leadership of the various agencies, can you use this opportunity to let Nigerians understand what your programmes will be?

 

I have said elsewhere, that the fact that this ministry has been renamed Ministry of Information and National Orientation itself shows that the government is desirous of putting national orientation on the front burner, and like I’ve said over and over again. Part of the problem of this country is the issue of orientation. We have over the years seen a gradual erosion in the values that have been bequeathed to us by the founding fathers.  Almost continuously, trust in public communication and government officials that the people themselves have elected, is fading; therefore, the President’s desire is to have a National Orientation Agency that is at the forefront of rebuilding these core values. I want to say here that a new national discourse is being put together to be led by Mr. President so that we can at least address what this nation has for all of us, and what this nation also expects from all of us. That is going to happen very soon.

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After the judgement of the Supreme Court yesterday, there is no gainsaying that Nigeria has been divided along ethnic, cultural, and even political lines. What would be your message to Nigerians at this time after the court judgement in the face of trying to unite the nation?

“We have over the years seen a gradual erosion in the values that have been bequeathed to us by the founding fathers. “….. Idris

Indeed, elections have come and gone; it is pertinent that all of us come together again in the interest of our country. If we continue to heat the polity, if we continue to give Nigerians messages that appear not to be in the direction of uniting them, that is not going to be helpful for our country. Our persuasions and our differences in terms of political leanings will always be there, but it’s important, now that the Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter in this judgement, has spoken, that we agree to come together and unite in the interest of our country.The time will come again when the politics will reopen but for now, let us unite in the interest of Nigeria. Nigerians are known to be very resilient people who love their country and are patriotic; It is important for all of us, regardless of our desire, to criticize constructively. Let us all please come together once again in the interest of Nigeria.

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I have heard what would be done for federal civil servants and the poorest of the poor; what is the government planning for the majority of Nigerians who do not fall within this bracket?

It is incorrect to think that civil servants are the only beneficiaries of the reforms of Mr. President. First, many projects have been put together by the Tinubu administration to bring some succour in the short run before the long-term benefits are felt. Fifteen (15) million households, the poorest of the poor, so to say are already been given N25,000 over the next three months. This is in addition to the funds provided by the federal government to states, the assorted grains, and fertilizers that have also been given to states, and the CNG buses being procured. All these will benefit the majority of the people. As you know, this development cannot be left to the Federal government alone. It is pertinent, and the President has also said, that while the central government drives the process, the sub-nationals also have a critical role to play in ensuring good lives return to our people.