From Bridget Chiedu Onochie, Abuja
ON appointment of Mr. Mike Omeri as the Director General of National Orientation Agency few months ago following the sack of his predecessor, Alhaji Idi Farouk, many did not envy his position.
That was not to say that the enlightenment and awareness-creating parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, was not befitting enough, rather, observers were not oblivious of numerous challenges ahead of him.
Indeed, Omeri has taken over the management of NOA at a very crucial moment in the nation’s history. It is a period, when he is not only confronted with rigours of making Nigerians accept some unpopular government policies but a time it is most desirable to restore positive attitudes and core moral values, which appeared to have eroded the people over the years, through awareness and enlightenment programmes.
It could be recalled that his appointment also came in the heat of the fuel subsidy removal uprising. In fact, it was speculated that the unceremonious exit of Farouk was not unconnected to his inability to effectively mobilise Nigerians in support of the fuel subsidy removal policy ahead of time.
Given the surrounding circumstance, many anxiously waited to see Omeri perform magic, especially with the paucity of funds, which the Ministry of Culture, under which the agency is domiciled, has had to operate since its establishment in 1999.
Aware of his many challenges, Omeri on assumption of office, organised a stakeholders’ forum, which had in attendance, past director generals and management staff of the agency.
It was designed to unravel factors responsible for the agency’s poor performance in spite of its crucial position in nation building.
Indeed, the meeting scored high point as it prepared the ground for subsequent efforts that culminated in the restructuring of NOA towards effectively executing its mandate.
Consequently, the D.G has not only unleashed programmes and activities that touched on all the sectors of the nation’s economy; he also pledged his administration’s commitment to the success of President Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda by ensuring a well-informed populace through collaboration with various ministries, departments and agencies.
As the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) launches its Multi-Year Tariff Order, which was planned to take effect from June 1 with hike in electricity tariff, the agency has since swung into action. It kick-started its propaganda by first educating its management staff on the proposed policy. The idea was to empower them to further enlighten the public at the three tiers of government on the desirability benefits of the policy.
Omeri believed that the acceptance of the policy by the public would depend on the communication mix employed to drive the campaign.
“To successfully drive home the new policy, it was necessary that we do not only understand the very concept, we should also endeavour to have a full grasp of its technicalities, implications on our socio-economic lives as well as the short and long term benefits to be able to reach out to the public.”
He however expressed worries that government policies are always greeted with a high degree of misconceptions, hues and cries and deep expression of pain by the Nigerian masses without bordering to comprehend the policies.
“It is against this background that our esteemed agency becomes prominent in the business of sensitising, educating and mobilising Nigerians on the contents and the overall benefits of government policies to our people.”
The D.G used the forum to urge Nigerians to give their full support to the proposed increase in the electricity tariff as they would eventually become the beneficiaries of the policy.
“Apart from the fact that the policy will instill discipline in the usage of public utilities, the rich are also likely to be the most affected in terms of high costs to be paid as they tend to consume electricity the more. It is also important to note that the proceeds from the new price regime will be used to subsidise electricity supply to the poor in rural areas.”
Omeri stressed that the new electricity policy regime will not only improve power supply but also attract more investors in the sector as over 50 licenses have been issued to private stakeholders by NERC as part of the effort to improve power generation and distribution across the country.
In the like manner, the agency is also collaborating with the office of the Presidency on Millennium Development Goals to educate the masses on the seriousness of the government to meet up with the targest. As the year 2015 draws close, there are increasing concerns about Nigeria’s ability to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) target.
This is in view of the fact that none of the eight internationally agreed goals, such as poverty eradication, provision of basic education, gender equality and women empowerment as well as health care provision, especially the reduction of infant and maternal mortality, among others, appeared to have been tackled headlong 12 years down the lane.
Senior Special Adviser to the President on Millennium Development Goals and head, special project unit, Dr. Christopher Otabo, said that though much has been achieved in that direction; lots more are required from every citizen of the country to beat the target.
“For this reason, the office is partnering the NOA to create necessary awareness and consciousness, especially among rural dwellers.
Adding: “The partnership aims at awakening the consciousness of the community members as well as community leaders on the need for them to be interested in the projects in their domain; to buy into the developmental project that the MDGs are involved with; to be owners of the projects and to take responsibility for the project.”
Otabo expects NOA with its wider reach, to take the message of the OSSAP on MDGs to the grass root, conscientize and interact with the people so as to discover their mindset about the programme and then, educate them accordingly.
“NOA is expected to mingle with the people and feel their pulse, what their feelings are about the projects and get them to come together and rally around the projects to ensure that the projects succeed. Because right now in many places, there are projects we have been handling alone and there is no buy-in in the community.
“We expect NOA to bridge that gap by letting them know that the projects are meant for their benefit and they should participate actively in ensuring that the projects work. That is what we expect NOA to do.”
On its own, the agency has embarked on series of programmes that are aimed at re-orientating Nigerians. The recently launched ‘Do the Right Thing: Transform Nigeria,’ which held simultaneously in all states of the federation with the exception of Borno and Yobe states due to the volatile nature of the environment, was an attempt to address the culture of impunity.
The programme was more of a charge on Nigerians irrespective of ethnic, political, religious or social affiliation, to imbibe positive values and shun attitudes and vices that are detrimental to national development.
In his remarks, Omeri maintained that the strength of every nation lies in the character of its people. He also noted that ‘Do the Right Thing’ campaign was not a slogan but a charge in the sub-consciousness of Nigerians to tow the part of development.
“I believe that the time is now to rise up to the challenge of developing our country through active and constructive participation in governance, education, industry as well as entertainment. This is our greatest challenge – to uphold Nigeria and to be courageous enough to stand and be proud of it. No country is perfect, most countries of the world evolved as a result of history, geography and even dialogue”, he said.
No doubt, Omeri appeared to have started well in his recent appointment. He has succeeded in injecting new ideas into the system. Many however expressed concerns over sustaining the new tempo and NOA re-engineering process as the parent ministry and its parastatals are perennially confronted with the major challenge of paucity of funds.
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