Muffled Voices: Giving voice to the voiceless and displaced people

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Muffled voices: giving attention to displaced people

It was a one-day event. But the fallout of the event has continued to seep through the media space, giving new insight and creating awareness among media men and women on the need to give more attention to people who are internally displaced in Nigeria.

For a greater part of last year, Journalist for Christ International Outreach with the support of World Association for Christian Communications and Bread for the World, and Waldensian Church’s Otto Per Mille (OPM), Italy, had done a study on the media portrayal of IDP’s in Africa. The JFC project is a part of the larger project that covers the whole of Africa.

At the end of the monitoring, JFC, which was founded by Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin 21 years ago produced the book, Muffled Voices. So, the one-day event was a great opportunity to present the book to stakeholders in the media and organisations that relate with the IDPs.

Associate Professor of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Dr. Sunday Oloruntola did a brilliant review of the publication. The launch held at the International Press Centre, Ogba. Oloruntola noted that the media has not done enough to amplify the voices of IDPs in Nigeria.

While noting that IDP issue is not peculiar to Nigeria, he said, “The reality is that internal displacement is all over the world now,. It is not something we can take with levity again. It is something we should give adequate attention.”

On the publication he said the JFC team did a good job in painting a graphic image of how IDP’s are portrayed. He however counseled that the issues of rape and mismanagement of funds allocated to IDPs should take the front burner in media reportage.

Executive Director, Centre for Children’s Health Education Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE), Betty Abah introduced a rather gripping dimension to the case of IDPs in Nigeria. She noted that some inmates of the IDPs are treated as less humans.

“Some of the IDPs are professionals, people of means and people who never expected that they would lose their homes. Unfortunately when they are displaced they are subjected to all kinds of inhuman and demeaning treatment. Children are not given adequate attention. When people go to visit the IDP camps, nobody thinks of the girl child. It is amazing that those who support those in the IDP camps don’t even think of sanitary pads for the young girls and women in those camps. The living condition in the camps is appalling. We need to wake up and do something no matter how little from our different ends.” she said.

At the presentation, Assistant Chief Admin-Officer of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI), Mrs. Ola Erinfolami, appealed for more concern for IDPs in Nigeria. She disclosed that the camp of the commission at Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos is presently sheltering about 10,000 displaced persons including returnees from Libya. “We have an issue on one hands and the earlier we pay attention to the issues the better for us” she said.

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copy of the project book, Muffled Voices

Former Editor of the Sunday title of Punch newspaper, Mrs. Bisi Deji-Folutile and News Editor at Eko FM, Mr. Muyiwa Kalejaiye were discussants at the media launch. Folutile in her submission said it is difficult for media houses to stay on IDP issues for a prolonged time because of logistics and strategic reasons. She however counseled that there was need to keep a beam light on government activities to prevent IDP cases.

She said “The media in Nigeria is also a product of the society. You will agree with me they have economic challenges. The Nigerian media houses are dying, you with think they are there but they are not finding it easy at all. Many media houses are not paying and the few ones that are paying put more pressure on the journalists to deliver,” she said.

In his own submission, Kalejaiye commended JFC for a job well done. He however advised the inclusion of those rendered IDPs due to ecological issues in subsequent similar project. “Journalists should not only focus on IDPs displaced by insurgency but should also report those IDPs displaced by other factors for instance erosion has displaced several people in the south east and those people should also be reported,” he advised.

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Chairman of the Lagos Chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Lagos Chapter, Dr. Qasim Akinreti and the chairperson of the National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) and a host of other media stakeholders were at the event which has continued to get media attention in the country.

The Special Adviser to President Mohammadu Buhari on Media, Mr. Femi Adesina who was presented with a copy of the book at the Aso Rock Villa few days after it was launched praised the effort of the JFC urging journalists to pay more attention to issues than concern displaced people. He said the government will greatly appreciate information that can help it in its policy direction.

Several other stakeholders and media houses were presented with copies of Muffled Voices. The Editor-in-Chief of Premium Times, Mr. Musikiliu Mojeed expressed great delight at the project noting that he would have loved a situation where the team of journalists in Premium Times were lectured on the outcome of the findings of JFC so as to enhance their reportage of the IDP camps.

He however noted that the report did not give premium to online publications. Though Premium Times was one of the two online media that was monitored, he said the parameters used in monitoring the online is slightly different from the hard copy publication. He then counseled that in subsequent efforts, those who know about online publications should be involved in the monitoring.

The executive director, Centre for Investigative Reporting, Mr. Dayo Aiyetan said his organization would take time to study the outcome of the JFC findings as contained in Muffled Voices and do a follow up on the findings. He said his organisations had done series of reports on the IDP camps in Nigeria. He expressed great concerns on the lack lustre attitude of government and some non-government organisations to the plight of those in the camps. He mentioned the case of a Nigerian who collected millions of dollars to work on IDPs in Nigeria only for the individual to divert the funds.

The Chairman of Abuja NUJ chapter, Mr. Emma Ogbeche told the JFC team who visited him in Abuja that Muffled Voices came out at the right time. He said the project will help greatly to redefine journalism in Nigeria and give journalism a human face.

“This book will help us to redefine our focus. The book is coming at a time when Abuja has about 1000 displaced people and when there are over 12 states in Nigeria with IDP camps. As Christians we are called not only to Christians but to the whole world irrespective of their faith, to make impact and also to help in redefining leadership. As an organization, the NUJ has helped in making life better for many people in the FCT. The Muffled Voices has further given us a roadmap. We are going to take it up from where the JFC has stopped.”

Ogbeche said since he came in as the chairman of NUJ eight months ago, the NUJ has experienced a lot of positive changes including the building of its own edifice and the claiming of its property which has been under litigation for several years. He recalled that the Abuja chapter of the JFC used to be very active many years ago regretting however that the body could not continue meeting because of space challenge and logistics issues. He however promised to revive the JFC chapter in Abuja as soon as possible.

Story by Gbenga Osinaike

 

About Gbenga Osinaike

Gbenga Osinaike is a 1992 graduate of Dramatic Arts from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He specialised in Play-writing. He also holds a Master of Arts Degree from the University of Lagos. He was Assistant Editor in Punch Newspapers from where he resigned having worked for 13 years to start Church Times Nigeria in March 2007. He is currently the Nigeria representative of US based Institute of Global Church Studies and member board of trustees Journalists for Christ International Outreach

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