As part of efforts to ensure transparency and accountability in the use of public funds especially in the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Press Centre (IPC) has trained journalists across Northern Nigeria on investigative reporting skills.
Participating journalists were particularly trained on how to use the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act for Investigative Reports on Campaign finance and COVID-19 Accountability Issues.
The 2-day training workshop which held in Abuja on Tuesday and Wednesday was organized in oartnership with the Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and supported by the European Union (EU).
The Executive Director, IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, in his welcome remarks harped on the need for journalists to embrace investigative methods in the reporting of Covid-19 issues,
This, according to him, is largely because of the perception, and perhaps the reality, that the funding aspect of the fight against the pandemic is not meeting the requirements of transparency and accountability with so many questions hanging out there
“How much has been deployed to the fight by the federal government and what is the breakdown? How much have the state governments deployed to the fight and what are the details? What are the sources of the funding and who are the donors? What is the cost of the isolation centres built around the country? Who are the contractors? Were they selected in accordance with procurement laws?”, he queried.
The Director noted that the workshop us apt following the growing public perception that the Nigerian media has been compromised and that there is a dearth of investigative journalism.
Arogundade explained that the workshop was designed to examine best practices in investigating and reporting political/campaign finance issues.
He therefore tasked joyrnalists to do investigative stories based on the knowledge acquired.
In the same vein, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director, MRA, in his opening remarks, informed rhat the workshop is the second in a series of workshops, with the first held in Lagos on August 5 and 6, 2020 for journalists from the southern part of the country.
The Director expressed optimism that the COVID-19 pandemic provides sufficient motivation for journalists to be engaged in the governance process to ensure that the funds meant for COVID-19 response are not stolen, misappropriated, misapplied or in any other way diverted to other purposes.
“I encourage you to take an interest in reporting these issues, namely political campaign finance issues as well as the Coronavirus pandemic, particularly with the objectives of bringing some sanity into the regulation of political campaign financing and ensuring transparency and accountability in the government’s response to the CIVID-19 pandemic.
“Besides encouraging you to take an interest in these issues, we are also hoping to use the training to sharpen your investigative reporting skills and build the confidence and ability of those of you for whom the Freedom of Information Act is still new, to use it as a tool for facilitating transparent, free, fair and credible elections as well as monitoring how funds received and allocated for the COVID-19 response are being managed and utilized.
“Our ultimate goal in organizing the workshop is to contribute to improving government accountability to citizens across board”,he said.