Attahiru Jega, former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), talked about the current state of public broadcasting in Nigeria, calling for structural changes.

Last week on Wednesday, Jega held a speech about Nigeria’s public media at the 2nd Annual Lecture Series of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in Abuja. The theme was “Broadcasting, democracy and the challenge of the new Nigeria”.

Jenga said that the current media in the country is weak and does not support democracy because of its partisan line of action. However, according to him, media can play a fundamental role in promoting democratisation and national development.  

“Broadcasting, if repositioned, and freed from the vested interests which have strangulated it, has a positive role to play towards our aspiration for desirable democratic development,” he said during his speech.

Jenga said media could “enlighten the public” and encourage participation during the elections thus favoring democracy. However, before serving this role, public media in Nigeria needs structural changes, such as a stronger legal regulatory framework and a better regulatory agency. These changes need to be reinforced by the government, too.

The current government has to “contribute to the reform and repositioning of broadcasting so that it can play a remarkably improved role in Nigeria’s democratic development,” Jenga added.

Ayotunde Adesugba, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Culture echoed his sentiments. “Broadcasters must remember that they hold the airways in trust for the people,” he said. “They must use their positions positively to stimulate and promote democracy and not to diminish it”.

Jenga reminded the audience that in order to promote democracy, public media should be independent, not only financially but also from other partisanship that could undermine its quality and transparency.