The role of journalists in tackling insecurity

Nigeria has been battling with insecurity since independence. This ranges from the 1963 crisis, the civil war, Maitasine, Boko Haram, Niger Delta militants, the outlawed Indigenous People of the Republic of Biafra, IPOB, banditry to farmers-herders clashes as well as religious and ethnic conflicts. In addition to the above issues, natural disasters like flooding, fire outbreak, and erosion have also contributed in aggravating humanitarian issues in the country.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHRC, as of last September, insecurity in Nigeria has turned over 3.1 million people into Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, and more than 343,000 are refugees. The development has exposed innocent Nigerians to life-threatening diseases, inaccessibility to social amenities like education, socialisation, water, sanitation, business, self-reliance, and fundamental freedom.

Humangle reported in June, 2022 that internally displaced persons and returnees are prone to food insecurity in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states just as the United Nations World Food Programme,WFP, warns that people would be pushed further into food insecurity. WFP added that IDPs and returnees in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe (BAY) states show significantly higher levels of deprivation in terms of food consumption, coping, non-monetary poverty, and food stock levels compared to permanent residents.

Another disturbing factor is that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, reported that the number of out-school children has risen from 10.5 million in 2020 to 20 million as of October 2022. Most of them are victims of insecurity and poverty aggravated by the current situation of the country. The children are also battling with malnutrition.

The United Nations, UN, had, last week, launched a $1.3 billion appeal to help six million people severely affected by conflict, disease, and disaster in North-east Nigeria. Regarding the situation as a “ticking time bomb”, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs,OCHA, said the number of children suffering from acute malnutrition is projected to increase to two million in 2023, up from 1.74 million last year.

The insecurity has also brought gender-based violence to the affected communities and IDPs’ camps. There have been a series of alleged sexual violence by IDPs’ camp officials and security agents as reported by Reuters and other media organisations. Allegations have it that some of the cases are not even being reported due to the absence of investigative reporting and in-depth reporting.

According to Professor Umaru Pate in his Media and Conflict level 400 course, Bayero University, Kano, BUK, the media have the role of giving early warning signals of conflict, roles during the conflict, and post-conflict. Looking at the issues raised in this article, the media can educate citizens on the need to coexist peacefully, and for the governments to live above board in all their dealings. The media should teach Nigerians skills and techniques for becoming self-reliant to stop them from engaging in violent activities. It is also the duty of the media to analyze the fundamental causes of conflicts and proffer solutions. When conflict erupts, the media can stabilize it through objective, balanced, and fair reportage. If these principles are violated, the media would end up escalating the conflict instead of mitigating it.

To tackle humanitarian issues, the media have to perform surveillance and sensitization roles. These include; Firstly, reporting donations and support rendered to the affected persons by governments and relevant bodies and ensuring that they are equally distributed without diversion. Secondly, the media must work tirelessly to see that displaced persons are well-settled and provided with all their needs. The third is the reporting of child labour, sexual violence, and other forms of injustice. Lastly, IDPs should be sensitised on the need to value their health, education, physical and psychological well-being.

Bilyaminu Gambo Kong-kol,
Mass Communication Department,
Bayero University, Kano
[email protected]