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Broadening The Scope Of News Reportage In The Niger Delta Region

Sometime in 2014, in Chatham House, London, a member of the Living Earth Foundation lamented the lopsided nature of news reportage in the Niger Delta. He was visibly bothered that most of the reportage were tilted in favour of the multinationals in desecrating the sanctity of the Niger Delta Environment and very little was written about the role of the Nigerian military and the Oil multinationals in perpetrating environmental injustice in the host communities. Simply put, the volume of reports served to the reading public was neither objective nor fair, lacking as it were of thorough investigation. He Also lamented that local reporters also replicate what has been reported in CNN, Reuters and other international media outfits.

The print media in Nigeria is mostly influenced by the multinationals because Nigerian journalistic space is dominated by what people aptly describe as “yellow journalism”. Recognizing that journalism has moved from mere reportage to investigative journalism for development, more than 80% of the existing tabloid have fallen short of expectation.

The question is: why another tabloid that would broaden the scope of reportage in the Niger Region? Better still, why do we need to cover the Niger Delta Region, when there is an already existing repertoire of Newspapers, online publishing outfits and a surfeit of literature on the Niger Delta Region? Again, the Niger Delta appears to have been over-researched perhaps only second to the Middle-East.

Pleasantly, Europe and the Americas have been researched for more than three centuries and even beyond yet more and more researches are being
carried out, realizing the truism that knowledge recycles at a
supersonic speed.  Clearly, what has drawn so much attention to the
Niger Delta Region can be explained in a myriad of factors.

The Niger Delta Region is the 3rd largest wetland in the world after the Mississippi in the United States and the Pantanal in Latin America.
Ostensibly too, the Niger Delta is the cradle of Nigeria’s hydrocarbon industry, as crude oil was founded in Oloibiri in Bayelsa State in 1956. The area therefore provides the resources sustaining the Nigeria.
The sad reality is that the Region has lost forty percent 40% of its habitable terrain. This has been exacerbated by the reckless activities of the oil multinationals who degrade the environment with impunity and without regard to their Corporate Social Responsibilities.

Today, the Niger Delta Region is a theatre of conflicting interests between the Centre and the States.  From the disaster that is oil spillage, sea shore erosion, (oceanification), environmental injustice, loss of the rich mangrove forests, interminable gas flares, to the loss of biodiversity, the Region (like the proverbial cockroach) has endured the collective burden of providing the budget of the nation. There is a plethora of literature in the Niger Delta but so
much of it deals with the activities of the multinationals and the reaction of the people, which is manifested in the form militancy. Most people are also familiar with substantial contributions made by individuals, stakeholders including the Multinationals. The mainstream media is so much interested in negative publicity at the expense of other positive developments in infrastructural development, human capacity building, peace building and delivering quality of life services.

Writers have not beamed a penetrating searchlight and not much has been
explored in the areas of:

Ø  The incredibly endowed ecosystem contains one of the highest
concentrations of biodiversity on planet earth, with its supporting flora and fauna.

Ø  Contributions of government to mitigate the sufferings of the people and genuine efforts by non-state actors.

Ø  The activities of individuals in the development of the area.

The internal contradictions in the Niger Delta are sometimes externally engineered. Most headlines concerning the Niger Delta are cast in Abuja
and Lagos without understanding the plight of the people domiciled in
the real oil bearing communities.

There are hardly reports on the impunity occasioned by the conspiracy
of the IOC’s and the Centre. All woes are blamed on the resurgence of
militancy.

Nigeria’s leading newspaper  rely on a foreign news outlet to report on
the biggest story in the country.

The core issues affecting the Niger Delta are tangentially omitted hence the international community does not have a full grasp of events in the Niger Delta. Although Nigeria boasts hundreds of radio and television stations and nearly as many newspapers, local outlets are struggling with a media downturn. The implication is that on a daily basis, most online newspapers go into extinction. The media space is getting very narrow and reports from  the Niger Delta is on a downward spiral.

Again, most of the news correspondents and journalists in the Niger Delta Region see their assignments as dangerous because of lack of insurance policies. It would require an in sider (a person from the Niger Delta) to give accurate reportage of events with facts and figures on the goings-on in the Niger Delta. We cannot rely on foreigners and people from other regions to report the Niger Delta.

The geographic challenges, associated with remoteness and challenging
topography provide a difficult geographical context for the Niger Delta’s development. These Geographic challenges have given rise to a range of ‘second nature’ geographic challenges in relation to infrastructure, service delivery and economic development. These first and second nature geographic challenges are not the only challenges Constraining poverty reduction and development in the Niger Delta, however. The resource curse has indeed gripped Nigeria, and the Niger Delta , and the failure of the a new online tabloid that would give robust coverage to Niger Delta Affairs is long overdue so the crooked reports can be put straight and in correct perspective.

Such untainted reports will open another vista of active debates and scholastic postulations and draw global attention to the Region once more as it was during the Kaiama Declaration of Dec 1998 and beyond. Debates of this nature will be a welcome development especially in a Regime that is perceived by many in the region as repressive and anti-Niger Delta. For accurate and factual report on the Niger Delta, a new online newspaper has become imperative, indeed so.