The Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly has organized a 2-day Retreat and Capacity Building Workshop for press corps members and correspondents of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.
The retreat which was declared opened by the speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke, took place at Utimanik Hotel, Grace Bill Road, Eket.
The retreat, with the theme “Reporting the Legislature for Sustainable Development”, had renowned Nigerians scholars and media experts as facilitators. They are Charles Aniagwu; Segun Adeniyi; Imam Imam; Ibanga Isine; Michael Bush as well as Kola Ologbondiyan.
In his remarks, the AKHA speaker, Barr. Onofiok Luke said the retreat was in partial fulfilment of his promise to continually partner journalists in the state especially in the area of capacity development.
Onofiok Luke, who made two promises when he paid a courtesy call to NUJ Press Centre, Uyo few days after he emerged speaker which is; to appoint five journalists to work with him and to initiate a media retreat and a training workshop for all House of Assembly correspondents, noted that his promises were in line with the legislative agenda of the 6th Assembly.
He said with the two promises fulfilled, he is looking forward to further engagements in order to consolidate on the robust relationship between the media and AKHA.
According to him, “This morning I am thankful to the resource persons who have honoured us with their presence in Uyo at a short notice. Beginning with my friend and brother, Mr Olusegun Adeniyi who will be coming in later today, to Mr Imam Imam and to Charles Aniagwu and Kola Ologbondiyan I say a very big thank you for this honour. Our very own Ibanga Isine and Michael Bush have showed rare commitment to the development of media practice in this state and I believe this commitment is why they have honoured our invitation to be part of this workshop. I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Charles Udoh for finding time to join us in this all important retreat in spite of his numerous engagements. I welcome very specially the state executive council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) led to this opening ceremony by the Chairman, Elder Patrick Albert. As I stand on this podium the thought that we are gathered to discuss legislative/media engagement in our state makes me happy that the programme will avail participants a time to reflect on how the legislature and members of the press can step up their engagements vis-à-vis the sustainable development agenda of the state government. Gentlemen of the press, distinguished guests, the anchor line of this gathering is the need to report the legislature for the ultimate goal of achieving sustainable development. Effectively reporting the legislature is important on the grounds that, as seen all over the world where democracy is practised, the legislature represents the voice of the masses. The masses, most of who cannot reach the legislature directly, depend on the media to gauge our progress. Besides this, the health state of every country’s democracy is often seen in the vibrancy of the legislature in carrying out its functions and the various legislative engagements cannot be heard if they are not reported in the media.”
While pointing out that the media in Akwa Ibom State have been solid partners in the successful running of the 6th Assembly, he said that the AKHA has never had it good when it comes to balanced and objective reportage by an independent press such as what the current House of Assembly in is enjoying. “We have in very recent past forged a partnership which has been both beneficial to the two institutions and to the larger benefit of Akwa Ibom people. This partnership has been through constant dialogue, parleys and unhindered access to information. But in the larger perspective, one would also realise that we could achieve even more if we had a media community which understands better the workings of the legislature and the task of an interpretative reporter within a legislature. I believe that adherence to basic professional media standards is also mandatory in specialised beat reporting. To sharpen our legislative output, the media as the fourth estate of the realm must show themselves to be both responsible and capable of holding others responsible. As an arm of government in the Deacon Udom Emmanuel administration, the state legislature yields itself completely to the vision of the Governor which seeks to promote transparency, accountability and openness.”
Furthermore, the speaker maintained that the house of Assembly, through its bills and motions and other legislative instrumentalities has done significantly to key into the sustainable development agenda of the state which encompasses Wealth Creation, Economic and Political Inclusion, Poverty Alleviation, Infrastructural Consolidation and Expansion, and Job Creation, as enumerated by the Governor.
He stressed that it is his believe that for the people to understand what government is doing, the media must be sufficiently positioned to understand its roles in the realm, adding that media people must understand why it is expedient for them to play their roles very actively as development partners.
He said it was against this consideration that the House thought it useful to organize the retreat, saying that although the House is not unaware that media houses have been engaging in regular trainings and retraining of their staff, but that the AKHA felt the need to contribute to their efforts especially in the area of legislative reporting even as he said that it is an investment which the House is making with the hope that it will translate into a tangible benefit for the Akwa Ibom people who crave to be informed above board.
He expressed gratitude to the Chairman House Committee on Information, the Rt. Hon. Ime Okon, and the entire members of the Information Committee who planned the retreat and workshop even as he promised to make the training a more regular event for the purpose of keeping our media team intellectually sharpened.
Earlier in his address, the Deputy House Leader and Chairman, House Committee on Information, RT. Hon. (Barr.) Ime Okon while welcoming the participants to the retreat, said the event was very timely and apt.
He said he was delighted that the retreat and training of journalists covering the House is being hosted by his committee in keeping with the promise made by the Speaker at the inception of his speakership to engage the minds of journalists in the state via routine trainings and workshops.
He appreciated the Speaker for not only granting the request, but also for approving the release of resources for the retreat, even at a time when so many issues are competing for the lean financial resources of the House, saying that it underscores the importance the Speaker attaches to the media as a whole, and the Assembly Press Corps and correspondents in particular.
In his words, “Of course, being a journalist himself, he (speaker) appreciates the enviable position of the media as the fourth estate of the realm. The theme for this training: “Reporting the Legislature for Sustainable development”, and other sub-topics listed for discussion in this retreat are well-suited to this audience, especially, in an emerging democracy where the role and duties of the legislature have been generally misunderstood by the Nigerian electorate. Unfortunately, the media rather than being in the forefront of educating, and informing members of the society on the duties and responsibilities of the legislature in a democratic setting, has helped to shape the perception of the legislature in the minds of the public.”
Ime Okon said the Legislature has been described as the fulcrum upon which democracy revolves, and it is an essential arm of government that is the closest to the electorate, adding that in order to report the legislature for sustainable development, journalists as purveyors of information must understand the role of the legislature towards the attainment of sustainable development.
He noted that accurate, correct, and verifiable dissemination of information and strategies of communication have been identified as key elements to the successful implementation of any sustainable development plan, saying that the essence of the training is to equip members of the Assembly press corps and correspondents not only with requisite knowledge, but, also with the necessary skills, tactics and techniques of reporting the legislature in view of the strategic role the legislature plays in bringing about sustainable development.
“The Sixth Assembly has proven to be a strategic development partner towards actualising the industralisation drive of the present administration which is anchored on the principles of sustainable development. This the House has been doing through appropriate legislation, oversight functions and budgetary allocation to development projects. I am persuaded that resource persons selected to handle the different topics in this training have what it takes to deliver the right message to the right audience. And it is the expectation of the House that at the end of this retreat, participants would return to their duty posts better informed, educated, and equipped to report the legislature.”
The Information Committee Chairman charged the participants not to see the event as one of those activities of the House, rather as an investment that would add to their knowledge, capacity and competence.
Okon appreciated the tremendous support and cooperation the House has received from the media community so far even as he appeal to the participants to always criticize constructively and praise graciously when necessary.
The Commissioner for Information and Strategy in the State, Hon. Charles Udoh in his goodwill message commended the leadership of the House for organizing the retreat. Udoh said media practitioners should always endeavour to write good news about the House of Assembly in particular and the Akwa Ibom State in general, adding that the media plays a big role in developing the State as well as help in developing economic.
“The stories we sell about Akwa Ibom State will determine what an investor thinks about the State. We can only tell the world of what we have by the kind of stories we churn out. The hundred mile steps start now, start with you.”
Also speaking, the immediate past Information Commissioner, Mr. Aniekan Umanah thanked the speaker for the retreat, adding that the retreat will help sharpen the skills of the participants.
He described the 6th Assembly as the most visible Assembly since democracy started in Akwa Ibom State.
He tasked participants to take advantage of the retreat which he said will help in expanding their reportage in legislature for sustainable development.
One of the participants, Mrs. Uduak Ekong in her vote of thanked the leadership of the House of Assembly for organizing the retreat for press corps members and correspondents. She promised On behalf of the participants to make good use of the knowledge gathered during the retreat.
Some of the lawmakers who graced the event are: the House leader, Hon. Udo kerian, Hon. Uduak Ududoh, member representing Ikot Abasi/Eastern Obolo, Hon. Usoro Akpanusoh, Esit Eket/Ibeno, Hon. Otobong Akpan, Ukanafun, Hon. Nse Ntuen State Constituencies among other.
Papers presented at the opening day of retreat were: The Basics of Legislative Reporting: The Do’s and Don’t’s by Charles Aniagwu; Conventions in Modern Legislative Reporting for Sustainable Development by Kola Ologbondiyan and Interpretative and Data Reporting Assembly Reporters by Imam Imam.
BY EMMANUEL AKPAN