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Media and Public Accountability in the Water and Sanitation sector

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 Welcome Address by Babatope Babalobi at the Ist Annual General Meeting of the Water and Saniation Media Network, Nigeria, February, 25, 2008, Abuja, Nigeria

 

I heartily welcome you to this momentous occasion of our Inaugural Annual General meeting. Less that two years ago, exactly on the 25th of October, 2006, this body was formed at this same venue as an independent, membership-based non governmental organization of Journalists reporting the water and sanitation sector in Nigeria.

 The humble objectives we set for ourselves are the following: 

  1. Increase the technical capacity of Nigeria’s Water and Sanitation Journalists to effectively report and analyze water and sanitation issues.
  2. Generally increase the understanding of Nigeria’s of Water and Sanitation Journalists on water and sanitation issues.
  3. To serve as a platform for its members to discharge the constitutional assigned responsibility of upholding government responsibility to the people, particularly in the implementing of water and sanitation programmes.
  4. Embark on Policy advocacy to ensure and guarantee every Nigerian has access to safe water and sanitation services.
  5. The body shall facilitate the participation of its members in relevant local and international meetings, conferences and workshops.
  6. The body shall cooperate with other bodies with similar aims for the promotion of its objectives.

 This AGM provides us with an opportunity for stock taking, to deliberate how we have fared in pursuing our noble objectives, to sharpen our focus, and fashion our strategies and tactics of overcoming the challenges that are facing the organization. Let me say that the fact that this body is able to meet in this gathering for the purposes of its 1st AGM, attests to the fact that the organization has come to stay.  It is my sincere hope that this meeting will signal another phase in the life of the Water and Sanitation Media Network, signaling its transition from foundational stage into development stage.

 In 2006 when we held the foundational meeting, only about 10 Journalists were present. Today, the Water and Sanitation Media Network boosts of about 50 registered members from Newspapers, Television Stations, News Agencies, Radio Stations and Online media in all the States of the Federation, 34 out of which are attending this meeting. Let me at this juncture salute the role of WaterAid Nigeria that assisted in the formation of the organization and has been the sole supporter of its activities up till date.

 On behalf of all members of the Network, I like to say a big thank you to Water Aid Nigeria for assisting us to pool  our talents together, share experiences and acquire new skills of discharging our Journalistic function through the platform of this body. Much as we appreciate the pioneering and passionate role of the WaterAid Nigeria in this regard, it is a tragedy of the Nigeria nation that the best initiatives in the water sector in terms of Programming, Projects, Reports, and best practices are often by International organizations and bodies who seem to be more patriotic than the National Governmental leadership in the water sector. 

This paradox informs the theme of this inaugural Annual General Meeting on “The Media and Public Accountability in the Water and Sanitation Sector’. Nigeria Journalists believe the have a role to play in efforts to deliver water and sanitation services to the people, within the context of the Millennium Development Goals; and in this International Year of Sanitation.

We are no more contented with reporting Speeches or rewriting Press statements hand outs. By the formation of the Water and Sanitation Media Network, we are sending a signal to all stakeholders that we want to join the debate on Water and Sanitation Policy and Programmes, we shall start to demand access to information on planned projects and budgets in the water and sanitation sector at the Federal, State and Local Government levels, we shall follow the money, and write investigative reports on how the various programmes and policies in the sector are really touching the lives of our people especially in the rural areas. 

I like to state clearly that the Water and Sanitation Network in set to complement activities of the Government and Non Governmental agencies in delivery services to Nigerians; and we therefore request full cooperation and support from all institutions in the sector. 

Towards achieving our objectives, may I therefore on behalf of the Water and Sanitation Network, request

  1. The National Water Resources Institute should include training Journalists on Water and Sanitation issues in order to increase our understanding.
  2. Private Sector firms working in the sector should support the training of Journalists locally and International; and their participation in Water and Sanitation conferences.
  3. That Government and Development agencies implementing Water and Sanitation projects should include a component for Monitoring of such projects by Water and Sanitation Journalists.

 I wish to end this address by thanking all members of the Network that have sacrificed to attend this meeting and hoping that we shall all leave as better Journalists for the growth and development of our fatherland.  

Thank you and God bless.