June 18, 2009

Why our officials won’t talk to press —Lagos

By Olasunkanmi Akoni
As Nigerians continue to clamour for the immediate passage of the Freedom of Information Bill (FoI) by the National Assermbly, the Lagos State Government has explained why some government officials were barred from making comments on state matters, saying it was in line with its policy of centralised information management.

“However, this should not be translated to mean an attempt to curtail access to information by the media and members of the public,” the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele, stated this while reacting to the claim in some quarters that the state government has barred government officials from talking to the media.

Bamidele said what the state government had done was to centralise the information management machinery of the state in such a manner that reflects an accurate dissemination of information to members of the public.

The commissioner said there were 43 members of the State Executive Council and 47 Permanent Secretaries, noting that 90 people cannot all be spokespersons for one government.

He said in addition, there were over 2000 Directors and close to 300 Press and Public Relations Officers deployed to ministries, agencies and parastatals of government, adding that allowing these categories of people to all be spokespersons of government will create cacophony of voices and conflicting information at the disposal of the public.

The commissioner pointed out that the state government would not fold its arms and allow itself to be turned to a reactionary government, stressing that every organisation adopts whatever information management strategy that best suites its purpose.

Bamidele, therefore, assured all stakeholders of continued access to information while insisting that the information team he is coordinating would not abandon, for any reason, its present style of simple, sincere and believable style of information management that is devoid of propaganda and constant need for damage control.

He maintained that the administration of Governor Babatunde Fashola would not be a government that would say one thing today and refute it tomorrow, pointing out that all it had done was in the best interest of the public.

The commissioner noted that the administration had, at its inception, published the e–mail addresses and telephone numbers of members of the state executive council, permanent secretaries and local government chairmen in the state, noting that the measure was to make the state government machinery accessible to members of the public.

He stressed that whoever wants any information about government activities could contact any of the above-mentioned principal functionaries whose contact information it published.