AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BY HIGH CHIEF BOMA SPERO-JACK JP, CHAIRMAN, BAYELSA PUBLIC INFORMATION MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE ON THE OCCASION OF THE TOWN HALL MEETING HELD IN SAGBAMA TOWN IN THE SAGBAMA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF BAYELSA STATE ON THURSDAY OCTOBER 24rd, 2013
On behalf of the Bayelsa Public Information Management Committee, I am delighted to welcome you all to this important Town Hall Meeting in Sagbama town today. The THEME: of the Town Hall Meeting is “PUBLIC INFORMATION AT YOUR DOOR STEPS: WHAT ROLE FOR THE CITIZENS”? Before I talk on the theme of today’s Town Hall Meeting, let me hasten to add that this Committee was inaugurated on Wednesday 20th March, 2013 at the Executive Chambers of the Banquet Hall, Government House–Yenagoa by His Excellency, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson. The Committee was inaugurated with the following Terms of Reference.
1. To oversee the management of public information dissemination in Bayelsa State, through the articulation of appropriate policies and strategies and to work in synergy with all relevant agencies such as NOA, National Orientation Agency, such as NBA, NMA, NLC, NUJ, professional bodies, Women and Youth Groups and other non-state actors.
2. To embark on sensitization of the citizens’ with a view to effecting attitudinal change in the youths through public enlightenment programmes on radio, television and town hall meetings among other community development training programmes.
3. To bridge the information gap between government and the people in order to reduce the spread of rumours, misinformation and propaganda disseminated by the mischief makers to distract the attention of government.
4. To evolve educational and behavior modification programmes designed to inculcate discipline positive work ethics and change among public servants, youths, women groups with a view to promoting the policies and programmes of the Restoration Government.
5. To re-enforce existing channels of communication to ensure that public information is brought to the people accurately and in a timely manner.
6. To liaise with all agencies charged with information dissemination and to serve as a clearing house among all agencies of government to enhance information flow in the system and any other matters related thereto.
Our Committee was inaugurated in realization of the fact that most of the time, rumours or misinformation flourish because people do not have access to timely and accurate information about public policies and programmes. We realize that misinformation or rumours are very destructive, as they feed the people with half-truths or outright falsehood. We believe in upholding the people’s right to know what is happening in government so they can be part of policy implementation process. It is only then that the citizens contribute their quota to good governance and share the vision of government.
Government has already demonstrated this goodwill by organizing the Monthly Transparency Briefing to let Bayelsans know how much monies come into the State and how such monies are spent. You will agree with me that in the past, monies accruing to the State were a matter of guesses, side-talks and rumours. This is the first administration that has achieved this feat.
My good people of Sagbama, when you hear a story, do not tell others until you have asked the following questions:
What is the source of the information?
Is the source authentic or can the source be trusted?
What is the intention of those telling the story?
Can I verify and quote the source of the story?
Of what benefit is the story to the individual and the State?
What is the integrity of the people telling the story?
What could they have at the back of their mind?
Until you have answers to these questions, please do not spread such stories because false information is very dangerous. Misinformation can cause confusion; damage the reputation of individuals or the State and create a wrong perception in the people about what is not true. In any situation where formal channels of information dissemination are not readily available, misinformation can sow discord in a system, create mutual suspicion and unhealthy competition in the system.
One of the strategies we adopt to sensitize Bayelsans about the policies and programmes of government and to curb rumour mongering is to hold Town Hall Meetings with the people. I am happy to announce to this distinguished audience that Sagbama Local Government Area is the first to benefit from the Committee’s Town Hall meetings.
Today’s Town Hall Meeting is particularly significant because of the overriding need to bring public information to the door steps of the people and the role expected of citizens. Accordingly, the Town Hall Meeting will discuss the following topical issues:
1. What is public information?
2. Characteristics of Public Information.
3. What you look out for when you want Public Information?.
4. Content of accurate Public Information and how it is disseminated.
5. Official Channels of obtaining accurate public information
6. Role of citizens in seeking Public Information.
7. Strategies for verifying accurate information.
Youth and Women Groups including CDCs and Traditional rulers can learn what happens in government by listening to the state-owned radio, watching the Television, read what is written on billboards, newspapers and the Social Media. If there is any serious issue the people want to bring to the attention of government, this can be done by writing memoranda or having an audience with public office holders both elected and appointed. Sometimes, groups can even send their representatives to relevant government Ministries, Agencies and Departments as fact finders. And of course, the town hall meeting we are organizing today is one avenue of understanding what happens in government.
At some level, Communities can nominate their Youth, Women and CDCs and other opinion leaders to attend government functions such as rallies, seminars, conferences, workshops and other interactive sessions, who will in turn report back to the people. This Committee expects that the citizens have the right to participate in the electoral process and therefore have an equal right to find out the truth, because little knowledge or half-truth is a dangerous thing.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, Our Committee also provides ample opportunity for you to lodge any complaint and clarify any ambiguity that you may have concerning any government policies, plans and programmes. Our Secretariat is at located at SAPTEX Road, Yenagoa and we are open to the public from 8.am to 4 pm. Feel free to avail yourself of this opportunity to make inquiries, ask questions, lodge complaints clarify issues so you will in turn be an ambassador of truth and transparency in Bayelsa State. For those who cannot come to the office, please, call the hotlines: 07030992208; 08101259810; 08101259782. Rest assured that you will get true, timely and accurate responses from our desk officers so you will leave no room for misinformation for mischief makers to exploit.
Through this strategy, the Committee has intervened in controversial and knotty policies and programmes such as job creation, taxation, law enforcement, the Bayelsa Development and Investment Corporation, the State Universal Basic Education, SUBEB, the Fire Service, the Environmental Sanitation Authority, the Free Education programme being implemented by the State Government and Scholarship Board. Other areas include pension administration, Due Process, transport related matters, security matters and government’s plans to resuscitate state-owned parastatals to create windows of employment opportunities, wealth creation and poverty reduction in line with the Restoration Agenda of the State Government.
For purposes of reach and communicating with the youths, the Committee established a facebook page called Bayelsa Public Information Management which now serves as a vehicle for effective transmission of accurate information and to ensure a two-way communication between government and the people. To further reinforce this effort, a blog and a facebook page were created http://www.bayelsapublicinformationmgt.wordpress.com; firstname.lastname@example.org to upload the day to day activities of the Committee. This has paid off as the public now has a better grasp of government policies and programmes.
Finally, let me assure you that the issues raised in this Town Hall Meeting will be looked into and channeled to the appropriate quarters. We shall be as transparent as possible because the Restoration Agenda thrives on openness and truth. Our Committee serves as a clearing house of public Information dissemination and we believe that transparency and truth are ingredients that enable the citizens to share the vision of government. We also believe that in this endeavour, everyone has a role to play. You have a role to play.
Let me thank most sincerely thank His Excellency, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson, the Governor of Bayelsa State for creating this platform for interaction between government and the people. I wish to thank all youth groups, Women leaders, CDC and traditional rulers who have found time to attend this Town Hall Meeting. I wish to place on record that this Committee provides wide latitude of interaction between the Restoration Government and the people of Bayelsa State. We shall not fail in our promise to use the Committee as a unique selling point of government policies, plans and programmes.
Today, Bayelsa State is the centre of gravity in our geo-polity. The State has enormous advantages in terms of resources and leadership. President Jonathan is from Bayelsa State. We have a visionary leadership at the State level. For the first time in Bayelsa State, we have a leader who knows the Bayelsa Story and is poised to place the state on the path of accelerated development. The journey has just started. In all facets of the administration and in all departments of life, Bayelsa State under the Restoration Administration has taken a quantum leap in the provision of physical infrastructure, human capital development, creating an enabling environment for investment and Tourism development. In Agriculture, monumental strides have been taken to ensure that Agriculture provides jobs and reduce poverty for our teeming youths. It is against the background of these development strides and the role of the Governor in reconciling aggrieved PDP members at the national level that has made Governor Henry Seriake Dickson a national player.
It is now the role of Sagbama people to identify with and support the Restoration Agenda in the light of the developmental strides taken by the State Government. In less than one and a half years, a new governance culture emerged, security of lives and property has been guaranteed; a transparency culture has been strengthened to the reform agenda of the government. Today, Bayelsa beckons on investors because of the investment-friendly environment created by the Restoration Administration. In our own fair assessment, the Government of Governor Henry Seriake Dickson is performing beyond the expectations of Bayelsans. This is why government needs the support of the people.
Once more, let me on behalf of the Committee, welcome the great people of Sagbama Local Government Area to this Town Hall meeting. I wish all of us fruitful deliberations.
Thank you for your attention.
High Chief Boma Spero-Jack
Chairman, Bayelsa Public Information Management Committee
October 24th, 2013