online education

Good Governance: The Media on the Entrance Line within the Combat Towards Corruption in Niger (by Mahamane Sabo Bachir)

Niamey – In Niger, since the liberalization of the media landscape in favor of the sovereign national conference in 1991, the starting point of democratic opening, the press has been at the forefront in the fight against bad governance, particularly corruption.

As part of its mission of general interest, the media has found itself at the center of the fight against corrupt practices, simply by providing information on a daily basis and helping to dispel the opacity that often leads to crime and other derivatives.

In addition, surveys, in-depth reports, missions and debates in the various press organs at national and local level are devoted to the issue of governance.

It is clear that Niger is struggling to eradicate the phenomenon of corruption, which is widespread in society, as evidenced by the reports of the Court of Auditors and the findings of other control institutions, which reveal numerous shortcomings in the management of public assets.

According to Transparency International’s ranking of perceptions of corruption in the world in 2022, Niger ranked 124th out of 180 countries surveyed. This gives the country a score of 31/100 according to the International Anti-Corruption Organization.

Maman Wada, President of the Nigerian Anti-Corruption Association (ANLC/TI), Nigerian branch of TI, recognizes that the media () are actors in the fight against corruption. The media discover, the media inform, the media orient, and this work is important.

All of us, actors in the fight against corruption, cannot be successful without the media. It is not possible. The activities that we carry out between the four (4) walls are known to the citizens through the media, he emphasizes.

Nigerian media lifting the book

There are many cases where journalists have done their job and published the book, recalls Elhadj Souleymane, publications director of the weekly Niger Inter.

To illustrate the role of the media in the fight against corruption, civil society actor Maman Wada says: We learned from the newspaper Le Hrisson that the 2014 competition for health minister was marred by irregularities.

In reliance on the article, we wrote to the President of the Republic to inform him of the corrupt practices that took place during this competition. And the President of the Republic invited us to meet him () he asked Halcia to start an investigation and after investigations we discovered monstrosities, he recalls.

Many serious things have been done. Eventually the competition was cancelled. And many state agents have been prosecuted and convicted in court. All thanks to a newspaper, explains the President of the ANLC/TI.

When we have evidence of corruption, we seize the media to investigate. () and it is the media that reveals to us the hidden content of these corrupt practices,” testifies the civil society actor.

In fact, the Nigerian press has exposed several other cases of corruption, financial embezzlement or abuse of power involving senior Nigerian politicians.

Among the most emblematic cases we can cite the so-called MEBA affair; the case of the Press Aid Fund; in imported babies; the case of MDN or even the case of the clandestine recruitment of around thirty agents into the civil service on behalf of the Minister of Secondary Education. Or, more recently, the case of wasting funds of the transport services of the Presidium of the Republic, where heads of finance and treasury are in custody. Added to this was uranium ungat worth around 200 billion FCFA.

The Ministry of Basic Education and Literacy’s MEBA case, it will be recalled, was uncovered by the weekly Le Rpublicain in 2006 and involved the embezzlement of approximately four (4) billion CFA francs of education funds earmarked for textbooks .

Two education ministers had been indicted and imprisoned by the National Assembly at the time of the events.

During the same regime, in 2007, the 100 million FCFA press aid fund affair had led to a vote on a motion of no confidence in the then prime minister, his indictment and his imprisonment.

The so-called imported baby affair, which made the headlines in L’Evnement newspaper, ended in a series of newspaper trials and the imprisonment of several prominent politicians.

The media was not left behind on the Minister of National Defense (MDN) affair related to misappropriation of public funds, overbilling and false billing uncovered during an audit conducted by the General Inspectorate of Armies and Gendarmerie on orders from the President of the Republic of September 23, 2019.

An initial report had mentioned FCFA 48 billion in overages and FCFA 28 billion in undelivered equipment when the contract deadline was exhausted.

Subsequently, the Court of Auditors’ final report had retained an over-calculation of 12.1 billion FCFA.

During a press conference on Tuesday 4 January 2021, the Director General of the State Judicial Authority (AJE), Mr. Omar Ibrahim, indicated that the State of Niger is right in relation to this equipment misappropriation case.

The MDN affair had found a political solution. It was an agreement between political actors, denounces Elhadj Souleymane from the newspaper Niger Inter.

This journalist is also the author of an article published on November 30, 2019, denouncing illegal recruitment for public service in the name of secondary education.

Following an inspection by HALCIA and the effect of this article, the recruitment in question was terminated on December 2, 2019.

However, it must be made clear that many investigations or media alarms have not found an attentive ear with the other actors, namely the courts or the authorities. It even happens that the hunter may become prey with complaints or other threats.

Observers note that some journalists, through lack of training or easy gain, rely more on sensationalism or the impact of the announcement than on the pursuit of evidence, which forms the basis of investigative journalism.

Nigerian media faces obstacles

Investigations are the ultimate journalistic genre in the fight against corruption. Investigative journalists in Niger face many obstacles in their work, noted several specialists contacted by the ANP.

Elhadj Souleymane mentioned among these obstacles the difficult access to information and administrative documents, especially on sensitive issues; lack or insufficient financial and logistical means of the journalist to conduct research; the interference of political leaders and parties in court proceedings when relatives are involved, particularly in political settlements.

For her part, Maman Wada of the ANLC/TI denounces the lack of protection for whistleblowers in the fight against corruption in Niger, apart from denouncing the financing of terrorism.

Some media professionals also point to the danger of journalists being used as an instrument in the context of political settlements, for example if sources with one or the other interest leak out or give journalists tips.

There are other types of threats as well. Reporters Without Borders points the finger at the relentless prosecutions and convictions of L’Evnement publishing director Moussa Aksar, author of several investigations into corruption and financial embezzlement involving high-ranking politicians and the military, testifying to the threats to investigative journalism.

Multifaceted challenges

To improve the working conditions of journalists who expose corruption in Niger, Sahirou Youssoufou, Secretary General of the Maison de la Presse, a uniting leader of socio-professional media organizations in Niger, recommends a number of measures.

And the head of the association mentioned, among other things, training focused on specialization in investigative journalism, access to official information, the creation of a network of journalists specializing in the subject through HALCIA, the creation of a legal framework to protect investigative journalists and implementation, investigative journalists have a financial fund available for research.

The media’s fight against corruption: a constitutional obligation

In addition to ethical considerations, the fight against media corruption also has a legal basis.

In fact, Article 158 of the Constitution of November 25, 2010 obliges the media to invest in the fight against corruption and all other forms of abuse of power and bad governance.

This provision of the law establishes that the media have a duty to promote democratic debate and to promote fundamental human rights, national languages ​​and sporting and cultural products, national unity, tolerance and solidarity, peace and security among diverse communities, and the fight against all forms of discrimination () .

According to Abdou Maman Jaharou, President of the Nigerian Media Observatory on Ethics and Deontology (ONIMED), this constitutional provision requires the media to stimulate debate about the news about governance and remind leaders and decision-makers of the responsibility that it is their responsibility to enforce the laws governing the management of public funds, transparency in the award of public contracts, investments in the social field, according to the needs of the population.

In this regard, journalists and the media must refuse to be corrupted and stick only to the facts and irrefutable evidence they report, argues Ibrahim Moussa, editor-in-chief of La Roue de l’Histoire newspaper.

Niger, which in 2022 has 67 private radio stations, 15 private TV channels and 16 online press sites, ranks 59th out of 180 countries surveyed in Reporters Without Borders’ global press freedom rankings.

The country has an arsenal of repression against corruption and anti-corruption institutions, as well as inspection and control. These are the HALCIA, the Green Line, the National Financial Information Processing Unit, CENTIF, the AJE, the Court of Accounts and the Financial Regulators.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button