In a bid to inform Nigerians what is going on in the National Orientation Agency, NOA, TM News in an exclusive interview with the Director General, DG, Dr. Garba Abari was able to gather issues, programmes and activities of the agency over time and how it has discharged its cardinal duty of orientating Nigerians.
Sir, can you tell us little about yourself?
My name Dr. Garba Abari am the Director General, National Orientation Agency, NOA, am not two years old in office yet, is slightly a year since I was appointed, am from Yobe State, and am educated both in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, am over 60 years old and married with children.
Can you tell us a little about your success story?
I don’t think I have any success story, I just live my life impacting the society, my life has just been a very simple structure life, most of my life has been spent in school either as a teacher or a student, it is only now I am coming into public service fully.
So if I have any success story is the fact that have succeeded in been in school, and shaping the lives of so many young men and women who are now in the different part of the country and contributing towards national development.
In many arrears I have gone to in this country, I have met with one or two or three or four that are in the arm forces, such as the police, the air force, the army, engineering, as heads of department, and agencies.
Are there any challenges?
There is, heading an agency like the National Orientation Agency, NOA, with is big expectations, even you members of the press are posing a challenge, a person quarrels with his wife you people will say where is NOA? When you see two friends fighting you say where is NOA? So every ill that afflicts the society people will just begin to say where is NOA? So this one is a huge challenge, it challenges me as the head of the agency, it challenges us as an institution, but we are not running away from it, the best we can we are doing.
On the Upsurge in agitation for restructuring, self-determination, expulsion and counter expulsion. What key strategies has NOA adopted to mitigate the trend?
I will take the questions in two part, thank you for your kind words for the NOA, what we are doing is to ensure that our connection to the people is sustained, we take information to the people as this is one of our key mandates, about government policies and programmes, and what the people have to benefit from it.
We also take information back from the people, we have so many platforms, through which we communicate this messages to the people, one which is the social media, we have a very active twitter handle, Facebook page, we are also active on Instagram.
This way, we reach out to digital citizens most especially the young people, who are always on our platforms. off course when we send out this information, we receive a lot of reaction of various types, some will abuse us, some will commend, some will make inputs, some will make a suggestion on how we can move forward and add value to what we are doing.Now that’s one of the
Now that’s one of the platforms, we have other audible ways on how we engage stakeholders in Nigeria, we have the traditional rulers who are up there, close to the people, and because they are revered, we engage them in passing information and sensitizing the people.
We also reach out to religious leaders, because of their influence and they are also stakeholders in the Nigeria society.
We have seen how the lack of peace, harmony, and terrorism has made many strong Christians and Muslim stay away from church and mosques, simply because you would have to be alive first before going to pray.
But then religious leaders have access to a very large number of people through their sermons and preaching in churches and in mosques, so when we have information, we use this channels, to pass some of this information, we also visit social gatherings to give out handbills, flyers to sensitize the people.
We also rely on local government because is another platform, through which we directly talk to the people. So the information that cannot be gathered from television, or from newspapers, you hear directly from us.
As agency we have representatives that go to sit in front of the chief palace or emir palace and local government councils, we will go to the frontage of the village square, somewhere in the local community where women groups are been brought, civil societies, labour elements in that local government, National Union of Teachers, National Union of Road Transport Workers, Medical workers, groups agencies, social developmental clubs amongst other likes, all of this come together and we sit down to engage them.
Off course is a large gathering of the people of that community, 750 people, 1000 at times, by the time you finish talking to these people by the end of the day, is like talking to every house hold in that local government. That is the broad spectrum of our orientation.
So to a very large extent, we get a lot of information, just as we are also giving out one, some of the information might not be pleasant, but still, they remain information which government needs to know and there is a report that goes to the government and we make recommendations to improve governance.Now the second part of your question which is to do with the economy,
Now the second part of your question which is to do with the economy, of course, the country is in a recession that is very correct, we came in at a time when revenue earnings for the country have dropped by 60 percent, but the country has been in recession since 2013.
Since 2013 government has been borrowing to pay salaries, we didn’t concoct the story, if you follow the former minister of Finance statement, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, she has said this several times. But what we are saying as a government is that recession is not a death sentence, in fact, our own kind of recession has taxed our potentials. Are we actually supposed to be filling the impact of this recession? the answer is no, it is self-afflicted because we were reckless with our finance, we did not build our infrastructure, we did not build the road, we did not improve on our power, we did not, we did not do so many things we ought to.At the time when billion upon billions of money came into the country, what did we do? By the time this government came to power the revenue earnings dropped by 60 percent, by the time the government came into power, 24 local government in this country, could not pay salaries, they could not pay workers, pensioners, arrears, and gratuity.
At the time when billion upon billions of money came into the country, what did we do? By the time this government came to power the revenue earnings dropped by 60 percent, by the time the government came into power, 24 local government in this country, could not pay salaries, they could not pay workers, pensioners, arrears, and gratuity.
Some states were owing salaries as far back as 6 months, yet despite with 60 percent reduction in revenue, this government was able to give out bailout to states government to pay salaries, to pay pensions etc.
Almost a year later, the government gave out the second bailout, pay salaries, pay pensioners. The third time, Paris club fund was also given to states to offset debt. And each state was receiving billions of naira.
Six months later, another bail out after the Paris club fund was given, the point we are trying to put out there is that recession is not a death sentence, countries have passed through this many times. Nigeria has passed through this many times.
In fact in 1984, as Nigerians we had to queue for sugar, we had to queue, soap, we had to queue for rice, we had to queue for petrol, we had to queue for almost everything, you go to the bank, you have to queue, you give a cheque of N100, they will tell ok take N40, come back tomorrow you will get maybe N60. When you come the following morning, they will say ok no, just take N30, and come back the next day to get the remaining. This was how bad it was that time.
Despite it is self-inflicted, we are gradually coming out of it because of our responsible policies our government has put out. The most important solution, personal to me is for citizens to be able to have food on the table, the moment we are unable to deal with the food issues, then there is a problem.
Sir, on the quit notice Issue, what has the NOA able to gather, some say it’s just a mere threat, others said the threat should be taken seriously?
The Kaduna declaration, I know that this country cannot break the way people are talking about it. The NOA has been doing a lot as at last week we did a world press conference, to sensitize Nigerians on dangers of hate speech, and to remind those who are perpetrating it that no Nigerian is any more important than the other. We are all stakeholders in the Nigerian project.
The quit notice that was issued by the Arewa youths is an illegal notice, they have no power to do it, they cannot enforce it, and that those who are doing anything that they are doing for the issuance of the quit notice to also guide their utterances and stop threatening to break out of the country.
People that are now preaching hate, and fanning disunity and chaos, just simply do that out of share ignorance, and thinking, that when the problem begins, they will just sit in their living room to just watch the crisis. That is what they are thinking, but when it begins, nobody will be spared. So the earlier we begin to realize that we have a common destiny and that our strength lies in our unity, the better for everybody.
Off course, this kind of situation will continue to come up, because, it is coming at time when politics is starting, and therefore even politicians will want to fan these embers of disunity, just of the purposes of scoring political points and cause confusion so that at the end of the day, their political interest is represented.
Sir Since you came on board what programme have you initiated and successfully implemented?
Everything, I have already told you about the local government assembly we have been engaging, and we also most importantly launched a five years strategic plan, which will guide the agency in what we shall be doing. And it is the very first time since the agency came into being a five years strategic plan has been put in place. This is printed on a document to show Nigerians so that people will have something to hold us against. You said you are going to do this and this, what have you done, we are carrying Nigerians along as stakeholders.
Based on your assessment do you think Nigerians have begun to imbibe the change begins with me slogan?
Off course, the indices are all there to see, first and foremost is the fact that money is not coming your way it is coming again, you are compulsorily made to cut your coat according to your size. People go to the filling stations to buy N2,000 fuel because the era of frivolous driving around is over. People are going back to farm, those who are already farming are expanding the space, and people are now operating a shoe stream budget because all of the corruption that has characterized our life is giving way. So easy money doesn’t come as it uses to, now you have to work for it, what change are we talking about other than this?
In your final words, what is your advice for Nigerians?
Everybody, as I have said, has a stake in this country and we cannot have a country that we all wish to see until each and every one of us begins to be a responsible citizen. Be law abiding, productive, have self-discipline, and obey laws and constituted authorities, the DG NOA concluded.
The Federal Government has boasted that its achievements under the watchful eyes of President Muhammadu Buhari are the greatest so far in the history of Nigeria as Nigerians have begun to attest to it.
This was the claim of the Minister of Information, Lai Muhammed in an exclusive interview with TM News while explaining the achievements of this present administration.
Responding on behalf of the Information Minister, the Director General of the National Orientation Agency, NOA, Dr. Garba Abari, said the three promises made by the government before coming to power has been fulfilled.
Highlighting the achievements, he said, "this is the three major areas the 2015 election was fought, restoration of security in the country, without which there will be no peace and order, fight against corruption and rebuilding of the economy."
According to him, all of the three promises have been fulfilled within the two years of President Buhari-led federal government.
"Two years down the line, people can now go to sleep with their two eyes closed, two years down the line, here in Abuja people were afraid of going to motor parks, people were afraid of going to churches, mosques, people were afraid of going to market, shopping malls, in fact any form of social gatherings because terrorist can strike at any time.
"Nigerians can attest to the fact that large chunk of the country is liberated and is now in peace and secured.
"In the north eastern part of the country, 27 local government were under the control of Boko Haram at that time before this government came, this part of Nigeria was forcefully taken over by the terrorist, where they declared their own republic, remove Nigerian flag, hoisted theirs.
"All this arrears have now be retrieved and reintegrated back to Nigeria; even though we are still living with some flashes of their activities, such as suicide bombings, they have been largely degraded. To that extent, we can say the government has done massively well in restoring peace in Nigeria.
"Talking about growing the economy, it does not mean that Nigerians will wake up overnight and think everybody will be living an ostentatious life, no, we are growing the economy in a way that is sustainable in a way that the impact will be felt over a time.
"Government has blocked leakages from public finances, government is ensuring that there is accountability in the management of public resources, government is ensuring that public office is seen as public trust, and therefore whosoever dips his hand in public finance to take what does not belong to him or her is been made to face the wrath of the law.
"The government is diverse financing the economy, meaning that we are gradually moving from a dependent oil economy to self-sufficiency in food. We are also developing the agricultural value chain we also create jobs and save the nation foreign exchange which also opens the market and also open other areas of development.
"To this extent, all the three areas government fought the election and won, it is doing enough to keep to that promise, two years after. Nigerians are attesting to it, they feel more secure now than ever before.
"The Ministry of Information is doing well to inform Nigerians that the peace we are enjoying is not just the function of government alone, the citizens should be part of it. ‘So if you see something, say something’."
In a bid to carry Nigerians along with what the Ministry of information has been doing under the watchful eyes of Alhaji Lai Mohammed, TM News in an exclusive Interview with the Minister was able to gather some of the success stories in his Ministry.
Recall that two years into this current administration, the government is on record to have introduced a number of ”life changing country reforms” that certainly have both short and long term impact on the citizens of Nigeria.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed, speaking through the Director General, National Orientation Agency, Dr Garba Abari highlighted so many arrears the government and the Ministry have recorded huge giant stride in ensuring that Nigerians key into the ”Change begins with me Campaign”, government policies and programmes.
What are the country policy issues In the Ministry of Infomation?
The Ministry of Information and Culture as the name connote is a Ministry, an Agency of government that speaks for the government. It spreads the main policies, programmes and objective of government and also expand the frontiers of citizen’s engagement for the purposes of collecting information and also for giving out information so that whatever government is doing or setting out to do, we the Ministry of Information make sure that such programme, plans are been laid on the table for citizens to see, understand and inculcate.
To a very large extent what the Ministry of Information do is actually to tell Nigerians what government is up to, what challenges government is facing, what opportunities are up there for Nigerians to see and key into, to also create a conducive environment for information dissemination and seek for citizen support and understanding for what government is setting out to do.
What is the progress made so far?
At least one progress that is obvious is that there is an actual kind of a closing of gap that has existed between the citizens and the government because consistently at the end of every Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting, key policies, key programmes, decision that has been arrived at that highest level of governance is divulged to Nigerians, and what other Agencies under the Ministry of Information are doing is also brought to the knowledge of Nigerians.
The Ministry has brought to Nigerians one of the key programmes that this administration had launched and it has not only engaged people in government but organized private sectors also.
The ‘Change Begins With Me’ initiative for example which is a cardinal programme of this government where citizens have been called upon to begin to be the ambassadors of the change they want to see. Where citizens are been called upon to police themselves, to begin to cultivate the culture of honesty and integrity, of questioning or holding accountable leaders and leadership and asking relevant questions of development and lack of it, revenue generation and expenditure and how it is managed.
I think to a very large extent, we can see that in the last two years the political and the social space has been opened, and citizens are free to express themselves and interrogate government policies and programmes, but at the same time government is also doing its own part, while we as Ministry of Information is trying to preach the good news of change; we are also policing ourselves in ensuring that the change we are talking about actually begins with us.
When it begins with us it becomes easier for the citizens to therefore key in, to follow.
Aside from that, the government through the Ministry of Information has also liberalized means of information dissemination, that is why in terms of management of public information outfit, everybody is giving equal access to the(sic) use public information outlets, such as the NTA, FRCN, etc.
On Mr President key promises to Nigerians, such as Social Investment Programmes, War Against Corruption, Terror, and Economic issues, the Minister said:
What the Ministry of information has done is to re-echo what has been registered in the minds of Nigerians.
Before the government came three major promises were made, and this is the three major areas the 2015 election was fought, restoration of security in the country, without which there will be no peace and order, fight against corruption and rebuilding of the economy.
These are the three major areas and cardinal objective of this administration.
Two years down the line, people can now go to sleep with their two eyes closed, two years down the line, here in Abuja people were afraid of going to motor parks, people were afraid of going to churches, mosques, people were afraid of going to market, shopping malls, in fact any form of social gatherings because terrorist can strike at any time.
Nigerians can attest to the fact that large chunk of the country is liberated and is now in peace and secured.
In the north eastern part of the country, 27 local government were under the control of Boko Haram at that time before this government came, this part of Nigeria was forcefully taken over by the terrorist, where they declared their own republic, remove Nigerian flag, hoisted theirs.
All these areas have now be retrieved and reintegrated back to Nigeria; even though we are still living with some flashes of their activities, such as suicide bombings, they have been largely degraded. To that extent, we can say the government has done massively well in restoring peace in Nigeria.
Talking about growing the economy, it does not mean that Nigerians will wake up overnight and think everybody will be living an ostentatious life, no, we are growing the economy in a way that is sustainable in a way that the impact will be felt over a time.
Government has blocked leakages from public finances, government is ensuring that there is accountability in the management of public resources, government is ensuring that public office is seen as public trust, and therefore whosoever dips his hand in public finance to take what does not belong to him or her is been made to face the wrath of the law.
The government is diverse(sic) financing the economy, meaning that we are gradually moving from a dependent oil economy to self-sufficiency in food. We are also developing the agricultural value chain we also create jobs and save the nation foreign exchange which also opens the market and also open other areas of development.
To this extent all the three areas government fought the election and won, it is doing enough to keep to that promise, two years after. Nigerians are attesting to it, they feel more secure now than ever before.
The Ministry of Information is doing well to inform Nigerians that the peace we are enjoying is not just the function of government alone, the citizens should be part of it. ‘So if you see something, say something’.
What steps are being taken towards Nigerians adapting to Climate Change – too much rain, flood and excessive heat?
The Ministry of Information is not doing this alone, it is collaborating with the Ministry of Environment, and also at the same time through the National Orientation Agency, NOA, trying to sensitize Nigerians as to the need to keep their environment clean. At the same time, also, we call on government at all levels to implement their environmental laws.
Climate Change has come to live with us, but if one can do what is expected of him, the needful of him, we can to a very large extent mitigate the impact. We should keep the environment clean.
Now some of the flooding’s we are witnessing in some part of the country are actually flash flooding; simply because we have built houses where we don’t suppose to build, we have refused to open the drains where water is supposed to go through.
The Ministry of Information through NOA and the Ministry of Environment, are presently engaged in sensitization and mobilization.
NOA last week organized events with school children to mark the world environment day so that school children grow up with the knowledge of the benefits that come with a clean environment.
Tree planting, clean water, the opening of drainage channels, and ensuring that State and Local Government, enforce their environmental laws are our cardinal objectives.
What is the progress made so far on Digitalization of Nigeria’s Communication Sector?
A lot of progress has been done in that area, and the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, has engaged in so many stakeholders meetings. The digitalization programme is also on course and in no distance time, the process will be completed.
How will it affect Investment both Locally And Internationally?
The digitalization process will open the information space, the gates are for everybody, quality production, wide access, wide economic opportunities for investors to come in, a wide economic opportunity for producers of programmes to invest into because the world is becoming increasingly digital so we cannot run away from digitalization.
For the setup boxes that have been exhausted, the NBC is working very hard and very soon that problem will be addressed,” the Minister concluded.