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Community radio: Landmark of history in Nigeria

In fostering this, the World Bank has organised planning support to community radio development for the prototype phase within the National Fadama Development project II,…

In fostering this, the World Bank has organised planning support to community radio development for the prototype phase within the National Fadama Development project II, especially for three of the participating states, which includes the FCT, Niger and Ogun states. However, the absence of the official policy, one that is readily openly accessible and simple enough to be understood by a layman remains a major militating factor against the development of community radio in Nigeria. President Musa Yar’adua can create history as many past presidents did during the life time of their administration by liberalizing the establishment of community radio stations in Nigeria.

Recently to keep the Nigerian farmers abreast with tested and proven agricultural technologies in the developed countries, the Executive Director National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) Dr S.A Ingawa distributed over one hundred and thirty “Farm Radio” to Nigerian farmers and is also planning to make information “interconnectivity” between farmers in different states of Nigeria. Pertinently, as Isha’q Kawu mentioned, the Nigerian NGOs have been firmly convinced that one of the key means of deepening the content of democracy in our country as well as enhancing the power of the Nigerian people is to convince the Nigerian states to hasten action in respect to the licensing of community broadcasters.

Historically speaking, radio broadcasting in Nigeria dates back to 1932. For two decades after its founding, local station for the empire service for the British Broadcasting Corporation (B.B.C), served merely as a hand maiden of the colonial enterprise, being the cultural arm of a political and economic process that consolidates British rule on our shores. However, in 1957 the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation was established as an independent institution designed to be neutral of existing political forces on the ground and to treat all parties equally. In practice, that dream was never realised, it was more of linguistics semantics as operated by the then policy makers. Few years after the creation of NBC, just to demonstrate how unwilling the government was to the notion of independence in the broadcasting ticket, the central government went to parliament in 1961 to use its majority to transform through legislation, the independent mouth-piece of the radio but this was to no avail.

Section 36 (2) of the 1979 Constitution ushered in the revolution radio broadcasting in the country. By proclaiming that “the federal and state government or any other person or body authorised by the president can own establish or operate a television or wireless broadcasting station in the country” it gave statutory basis to the ultimate emergence of private / commercial radio broadcasting 13 years after, when in 1992, the then government of Ibrahim Babangida finally, through the creation of the National Broadcasting Commission, decreed into existence a new era for private broadcasting. A year after, the first set of licenses was handed out. It is worthy to recall that in 1987 when the National Mass Communication policy met in Badagry, it recommended that private licenses be issued to interested Nigerians. The government rejected the recommendation. A government official summed up the thinking in the administration thus in a 1989 statement: ‘This call (for private participation in broadcasting) is not well advised. It appears to over look the fragile character of our present socio-political order which makes private participation in broadcasting a potentially destabilising force … at this time in our development process, it will be too dear a price to pay as a nation, if for purely economic reasons or so-called democratic imperative, we formulate a public communication policy that allows private sector participation in the electronic media”. Motivated by this type of clustered rationalisation, radio remained a monopoly of the state for 41 years after its independence.

As a matter of drawback, Nigeria is the only West African country without a community radio; how then is Nigeria the giant of Africa? Our law-makers would effectively respond to this question.

The second National Fadama Development project II which was the most successful project in the history of World Bank, identifies the essential roles of Community Radio and pursued its implementation with vigor, however, the project has ended with much recognition by the rural beneficiaries, Government of Nigeria and two different international awards from World Bank. However, the Fadama III that is now in place will emulate the wisdom of Fadama II and start immediate implementation of broadcasting system at the grass roots.

Kolo is Communication Specialist, Fadama II

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