Rep. Sam Onuigbo, Chairman, Security, Special Interventions and Climate Change, Governing Board, North-East Development Commission (NEDC), speaking during the House of Representatives Press Corps Retreat that held in Minna, Niger State, from October 19 to 21, 2023, stresses that, with a synergy between the media and the legislature, Nigeria is poised to stand as a shining example of how a nation can work together to protect the environment, mitigate climate change, and secure a sustainable future for generations to come
The historical development of the Nigerian media and parliament represents a complex interplay of societal, political, and cultural forces. Each has a unique journey of growth, transformation, and adaptation, shaping the nation’s narrative in distinct ways. However, in recent years, a compelling intersection has emerged – a fusion of media and the parliament in pursuit of a common goal: climate action.
This presentation explores the historical evolution of the Nigerian media and legislature, and how their convergence has catalysed a dynamic shift towards addressing the pressing issue of climate change. It highlights the past, the present, and the collaborative future of these two influential pillars in Nigeria’s socio-political landscape, united in the quest for “mainstreaming climate change actions in line with national development priorities,” for a sustainable and climate-resilient future.
The Nigerian Media – How It All Began
The history of the Nigerian media is a compelling narrative that reflects the nation’s journey from its colonial past to a thriving democratic society. From its inception as a tool of colonial administration to its evolution as a powerful platform for the dissemination of information, the Nigerian media has played a pivotal role in shaping the nation’s identity, politics, and social fabric.
This brief presentation delves into the rich tapestry of the Nigerian media’s historical development, examining its growth, challenges, and its profound impact on society, culture, and governance. As practicing professionals in the field, together, let us embark on a journey through time to explore the milestones, challenges, and triumphs that have defined the Nigerian media landscape.
Ikechukwu Nwosu in the book, “Polimedia: Media and Politics in Nigeria”, explains the genesis of Nigeria’s media engagements. He posits that the initial form of media employed in Nigeria consisted of traditional communication methods. These were the communication channels utilized by indigenous Nigerians prior to the arrival of colonial explorers on Nigerian shores. These traditional media, known by various names and categorized in multiple ways by contemporary scholars, displayed unique styles in performing nearly all the functions that modern mass media fulfill today.
These functions encompassed information dissemination, education, entertainment, developmental communications like climate action advocacy, and political communication and mobilisation for electoral participation. Commencing with humble origins, as exemplified by Rev. Henry Townsend’s “Iwe Iroyin Yoruba Fun Awon Egba”, which commenced publication in 1859, and Robert Campbell’s “Anglo-African” in 1863, the Nigerian media has evolved into a robust pillar that lends substantial support to both global and local developmental endeavors.
Patrick Ene Okon, author of “West Africa and the Europeans since the 15th Century: Essays in Honour of Patience Okwuchi Erim”, wrote on the theme “Historical Development of the Mass Media in Nigeria: From Colonial Era to the Present”. Patrick confirms that Nigeria, a prominent West African nation with a population of nearly 230 million, has been significantly influenced by mass media since the colonial era. These non-personal channels of communication disseminate information to a large and diverse audience without interpersonal contact.
There are two major types of mass media: print and broadcast. Print media includes newspapers, magazines, newsletters, billboards, and posters, while broadcast media includes television and radio. The emergence of the internet has added new media to the list. The newspaper press is the oldest mass media type and has played a significant role in shaping Nigeria’s and many other nations’ histories.
The mass media are expected to fulfill several functions including providing information, instructing the public, promoting individual rights, maintaining economic equilibrium, providing entertainment, and preserving independence. However, the media can also adopt different approaches such as partisan, advocacy, adversary, liberal, independent, or interventionist journalism. These approaches involve taking a stance on issues, crusading for causes, or opposing the government. The media and their personnel have the right to choose between a more active or neutral role in society.
The Evolution of the Nigerian Media
During the colonial era in Nigeria, the mass media was greatly influenced by the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885. This conference on how to partition Africa without her consent or contributions led to Britain’s conquest of Africa and the subsequent administration of Nigeria as separate Southern and Northern protectorates. The British exerted their political influence through trade, missionaries, and the introduction of modern education. The printing press played a crucial role in mass-producing print media materials. The first printing press was established in Abeokuta in 1854. This was followed by the establishment of another press by Reverend Hope Masterton Waddell in 1867.
Nationalists in Nigeria used newspapers as a powerful tool to fight against colonial rule. Broadcast media was introduced in the UK in 1932 when the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) launched the first short-wave broadcasting service in Lagos. In 1956, the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation was incorporated, providing a regulatory framework for broadcasting. The television segment joined this development with the establishment of Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) in 1959.
During the colonial era, the broadcast media was government-owned, focusing on acting as the mouthpiece of government. However, print media, including newspapers owned by nationalists, took partisan, advocacy, activist, and adversary approaches. For instance, the Nigerian Pioneer, owned and edited by Sir Kitoye Ajasa in 1914, was seen as defending governmental policies. Advocacy media, on the other hand, could achieve both positive and negative ends. One example of this was the publication that allowed its professional position to be used to prosecute personal vendetta and vent grievances.
Activist media focused on galvanising people towards independence and self-government, with John Payne Jackson’s Lagos Weekly Record being the most prominent. The Daily Times then called the Nigerian Daily Times, took on the role of recommending nationalist journalists for prosecution, describing Herbert Macaulay as a sedition-monger, exploitation of the poor, and ignorant in the name of patriotism. The West African Pilot, edited by Late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, also made massive contributions towards decolonisation.
The Media in the Fourth Republic
Nigeria’s governance has been inconsistent since its independence in 1960. From the January 15, 1966, coup detat to the death of late General Sanni Abacha in June,1998, Nigeria was characterised by coups and counter coups and unstable civilian governments. However, Nigeria has experienced nearly a quarter of a century of unbroken democratic dispensation probably due to the mass media’s contributions. The media has engaged in social, economic, health, and attitudinal change efforts, and has been effective in evoking patriotism and participation in development.
It has significantly contributed to the accomplishment of this amazing feat. Under the democratic system in place in Nigeria, the media has demonstrated its ability to persevere against all challenges and take a proactive role in advancing the nation. Radio, television, and newspapers have contributed significantly to the media’s efforts to improve society. The media has been able to gather news and information better due to the Freedom of Information Act 2011.
New Media’s Development and Citizen Journalism
The mass media sector is currently experiencing a process known as “functional displacement” because of the development of new media. Every time significant new media technologies are introduced, according to Baran & Baran, “they destabilise existing media industries, forcing large-scale and frequently very rapid restructuring? Additionally, McQuail claims that “the Internet is gradually replacing many ‘traditional’ mass media functions, such as advertising, news, and information” Today, not only in Nigeria but throughout the world, this is what has been going on in the media. The capacity of modern media to be interactive, which entails a two-way information flow through the computer between the user and the medium, is the single most remarkable feature of modern media.
The Nigerian Legislature
The Nigerian Legislature is a critical component of the country’s governing structure and plays a pivotal role in the law-making process. Over the years, the Nigerian legislature has evolved to metamorphose into its current structure, a bicameral legislature, consisting of two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Nigeria Legislature is an essential institution in the country’s democratic system, providing a forum for debate, negotiation, and decision-making on critical issues that affect the nation’s development.
Historical Evolution of the Nigerian Legislature
Lucky A. Tongs, Omololu Fagbadebo, and Mojeed Olujinmi in their well-researched book “The Legislature in Nigeria’s Presidential Democracy of the Fourth Republic”, inform that the National Assembly, as the principal legislative institution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has had a long history of institutional evolution dating back to June 1862, barely a year after the annexation of Lagos after a 10-year battle of conquests. The history of its growth and development is, therefore, intimately linked to and incorporates features of the British colonial administrative authority. Thus, the creation of a crown colony in Lagos also witnessed the birth of the Lagos Legislative Council, which played an important role in colonial governance.
The amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914 formally established a united Nigeria. This did not alter much of the structure of the government beyond the uniﬁcation of the two supreme courts that had previously operated in Northern and Southern Nigeria. In 1914, Sir Frederick Lord Lugard established the Nigerian Council, and remained in place until 1922 when Sir Hugh Clifford, composed the Legislative Council. Sir Hugh Clifford dismissed the Nigeria Council in 1922 because it lacked legislative or executive authority. There was no legislative or executive authority attached to any council decisions that passed.
The Legislative Council remained the same body and was almost static throughout its 24-year history, from 1922 to 1946. The role of the Nigerian legislature remained largely unchanged throughout colonial rule; but the structure and composition of the central legislature in Nigeria changed from its inception in 1862 to its independence in 1960, with a mix of officials and nominated unofficial members. It should be stressed that the legislative council under, Sir Lord Lugard lacked legislative or executive power. The introduction of the elective principle under the Clifford Constitution gave three representatives to Lagos and one to the municipal part of Calabar with the extension of adult suffrage in the Southern part of Nigeria. The status of the unicameral legislature changed in 1958 with the establishment of the Senate.
Arthur Richardson’s 1946 constitution was opposed by Nigerian political elites. It was opposed because he stated that they were not politically mature and lacked the resources for governance. The opposition led to its eventual withdrawal. John MacPherson who replaced Arthur Richardson, set up a committee to draft a new constitution which was enacted in 1951. That constitution gave rise to the creation of a central legislature in 1952 which is known today as the House of Representatives.
The Northern and Western regions had a bicameral legislature in 1946 and 1951, respectively. The House of Representatives, (formerly central legislature) functioned from 1952, comprising unofficial members as well as a Council of Ministers. The bicameral legislature functioned from 1960 to 1966, with the upper body (Senate) exercising particular powers not shared by the Federal House of Representatives under the frameworks of the the1960 Independence and 1963 Republican Constitutions. The parliamentary system between 1959 and January 15, 1966, adopted the characteristics of a fusion of executive and legislative powers.
The Current Legislature – The National Assembly
The authors further assert that Nigeria’s Legislature in the Fourth Republic is similar to the 3rd Republic legislature in terms of structure. Section 4 (1) of the Constitution vested “the legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in a National Assembly for the Federation, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.”
The bicameral legislature provides more legislators to have a voice in the legislative process. The Senate has 109 members (three senators representing each of the 36 states, and one representing the Federal Capital territory). The House of Representatives consists of 360 members representing federal constituencies. Section 58 of the Constitution empowers the National Assembly to make law through legislation passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The president must assent to the bill to become an Act of the National Assembly. This prerogative is what former President Muhammadu Buhari exercised when he assented to the Climate Change Act 2021 in order to lend his administration’s support to climate action.
Rachel Carlson, now regarded as the mother of the environmental movement in 1962 published Silent Spring which brought the attention of the world to the negative impacts of the environment. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) defines climate change as a change that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that latest the composition of the global atmosphere and addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.
Climate change has been variously described as a long-term change in the average weather patterns or conditions that have come to impact the Earth either by making it warmer, wetter, or drier over several decades. The negative effects lead to drought, desertification scrub in sea level, coastal erosion, gulley erosions, wildfires, etc. those negative impacts lead to loss of livelihoods, etc.
Climate Change Legal Framework for the Protection of the Nigerian Environment
Section 1 of the 1999 Constitution as amended states, “This Constitution is Supreme, and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Section 4(1) states, “The legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the Federation which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.”
Section 22 provides, “The press, radio, television, and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.’’
Section 20 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states “The state shall protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wildlife of Nigeria.” This section conveys a significant commitment by the Nigerian government to environmental sustainability and climate action.
This section also provides a legal foundation for citizens and environmental organizations to hold the government accountable for its environmental actions or inaction. If the government fails to fulfill its duty, individuals or groups may use this section to seek legal remedies. This was clearly established in the case of Centre for Oil Pollution Watch vs. NNPC (2018) Supreme Court of Nigeria. Furthermore, section 34(1) of the Climate Change Act 2021 provides “A person, or private or public entity that acts in a manner that negatively affects efforts towards mitigation and adaptation measures made under this act commits an offence and is liable to a penalty to be determined by the Council… A court before which a suit regarding climate change or environmental matters is instituted, may make an order to prevent, stop, or discontinue the performance of any act that is harmful to the environment”.
Nigeria’s Climate Change Act 2021
The Nigerian Climate Change Act of 2021 represents a significant legislative achievement aimed at addressing the pressing issue of climate change within the country. The act had its origins in the 6th National Assembly but was eventually passed and signed into law during the 9th National Assembly. Here is a brief overview of its historical development:
The 6th National Assembly (2007-2011): The initial discussion and consideration regarding climate change legislation in Nigeria started in the 5th Assembly, but it was in the 6th National Assembly that a bill was sponsored. While there were growing concerns about the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather events and environmental degradation, it wasn’t until the 9th Assembly that the efforts materialized and became an Act.
The 7th National Assembly (2011-2015): Despite some progress during the 6th Assembly, the proposed Climate Change Bill was passed in the 7th National Assembly but was not assented to by the then President, Goodluck Jonathan.
The 8th National Assembly (2015-2019): During the 8th Assembly, there was a renewed focus on climate change and environmental sustainability. Accordingly, I sponsored the Bill on Climate Change in the 8th Assembly. Notwithstanding sustained bureaucratic ambush, the bill passed the House of Representatives and obtained concurrence in the Senate. This legislative cycle marked progress in the consideration of climate change legislation, nonetheless the then President, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR withheld assent citing some reasons for his action.
The 9th National Assembly (2019-2023): The 9th National Assembly, which took office in June 2019, saw renewed efforts to address climate change through legislation. The Climate Change Bill was re-sponsored by me, debated, and finally passed, first by the House of Representatives and then by the Senate. The bill was eventually signed into law by the former President of Nigeria, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari GCFR on November 17, 2021, making it the Nigerian Climate Change Act 2021.
The Role of the Nigerian Media in the Implementation of the Act
The Nigerian Climate Change Act 2021 is a product of years of legislative deliberations, refinement, and debate across several National Assemblies for nearly two decades. Its passage underscores the growing recognition of the importance of addressing climate change and environmental sustainability in Nigeria, aligning the country with global efforts to combat climate change and reduce its environmental impact. Part 1, Sec 1 states, “This Act provides a Framework for achieving low greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), inclusive green growth and sustainable economic development.” This legislative milestone signifies Nigeria’s commitment to climate action and serves as a framework for addressing climate-related challenges within the nation.
After the historic passage of the Nigeria Climate Change Act 2021, as the months passed, a crucial piece of the puzzle remained absent – the inauguration of the National Council on Climate Change.
The Climate Change Act 2021 stipulated the formation of the National Council on Change as the chief custodian of the Act’s implementation. Part II, Sec 3(1) states, “There is established the National Council on Climate Change (in this Act referred to as “The Council’’) which shall be vested with powers to make policies and decisions on all matters concerning Climate Change in Nigeria.’’
The Council, comprising key stakeholders and government representatives, was entrusted with coordinating and overseeing all climate-related activities in the country. Its roles spanned from policy formulation to ensuring the mainstreaming of climate considerations into various sectors, fostering cooperation at both national and international levels.
Despite the Act being signed into law, there was an inexplicable delay in the establishment of the Council, which pushed the sponsor of the Act to write to the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, The Vice-President of Nigeria, Chief of Staff to the President and a few other key functionaries of that government. While the urgency to address climate change grew stronger, progress seemed to be stymied by bureaucratic hurdles and competing priorities.
During this time, the Nigerian media emerged as a powerful advocate for the immediate establishment of the Climate Change Council. Recognising the critical role this body would play in the effective execution of the Act, media outlets across the nation launched rigorous advocacy campaigns. They highlighted the environmental challenges Nigeria faced, from recurrent flooding to desertification and unpredictable weather patterns, emphasizing the impacts on agriculture, water resources, and the livelihoods of millions of Nigerians, forced migration and concomitant insecurity.
The media called attention to the global imperative of climate action, underscoring Nigeria’s commitment to international climate agreements and the need to fulfill its obligations as a responsible member of the global community. The urgency of climate action, they argued, couldn’t be overstated, given the dire consequences of inaction for the environment and the Nigerian populace.
The call for the establishment of the National Council on Climate Change was not only about compliance with the law past for herself, but also about ensuring a sustainable future for the nation. It was a rallying cry for the development of a comprehensive and coordinated approach to tackle climate change, harnessing the expertise of scientists, policymakers, and various stakeholders.
As the media continued to advocate for the council, they emphasised the economic opportunities that could be unlocked through green initiatives, renewable energy, and sustainable practices. They highlighted success stories from other nations that had invested in climate-resilient infrastructure, conservation, and clean energy, reaping not only environmental benefits but also economic rewards.
The media also underscored the need for climate education and awareness among the citizenry, believing that a Climate Change Council would facilitate educational outreach and engage the public in climate action in line with section 26 of the Act. This section mandates MDAs responsible for regulating educational curriculum in Nigeria on the integration of climate change into various discipline and subjects across all educational levels. After all, addressing climate change isn’t the responsibility of the government alone; it’s a collective effort that involves every Nigerian. That is precisely why the Council comprises government functionaries from all tiers, the private sector, woman, youth and people with disabilities.
The fervent advocacy of the media did not go unnoticed. It reached the highest office in the land, capturing the attention of the President, who recognized the urgency of the situation. With a renewed sense of commitment and urgency, the establishment of the National Council on Climate Change was inaugurated by President Buhari.
In this call for action, the Nigerian media demonstrated not only their watchdog role but also their power as catalysts for change. As the Climate Change Council finally takes shape, it’s a testament to the crucial role the media plays in shaping national discourse, driving accountability, and championing the causes that impact the lives of all Nigerians. With the Council’s establishment, Nigeria is now better poised to fulfill its climate commitments, setting the stage for a more sustainable, resilient, and climate-ready future.
The Media and Legislature for Climate Action: A Necessary Collaboration
In the intricate dance of legislation and advocacy, the passage of the Nigerian Climate Change Act of 2021 stands as a powerful testament to the nation’s commitment to environmental sustainability and climate action. This legislative milestone, rooted in Section 20 of the Nigerian Constitution, has established a clear obligation for the government to protect and enhance the environment, safeguard natural resources, and enact policies that promote sustainability.
The journey towards this landmark legislation was arduous, spanning multiple National Assemblies and bridging the intricate worlds of lawmaking and advocacy. The 9th National Assembly, which took office in 2019, marked the final act, as the Climate Change Bill was reintroduced, debated, and eventually passed, culminating in its signature into law by the former President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari. This passage illuminated Nigeria’s recognition of the global imperative to combat climate change and mitigate its environmental impacts.
However, as the dust settled on the legislative victory, one essential piece of the puzzle remained unattended – the establishment of the National Council on Climate Change Council, the custodian of the act’s implementation. The missing link served as a stark reminder that passing legislation is but the first step in the intricate process of addressing climate change. The council’s formation was critical for coordinated and effective execution of the act’s provisions, transcending law into action.
In this crucial juncture, the media emerged as a potent force for advocacy and awareness amplification. Recognizing the council’s pivotal role in translating the act into tangible climate action, media outlets across Nigeria embarked on rigorous campaigns. They highlighted the daunting environmental challenges Nigeria faces, from recurring floods to desertification and erratic weather patterns, and the profound implications on agriculture, water resources, and millions of livelihoods.
The media, through the power of their platforms and voices, emphasized the global imperative of climate action. Nigeria’s commitment to international climate agreements was underscored, and the media passionately articulated the need to fulfill these obligations as a responsible member of the global community. Their message was unequivocal: the urgency of climate action could not be overstated, given the dire consequences of inaction on the environment and the Nigerian populace.
The media’s advocacy was not merely about legal compliance; it was a call for a sustainable future, backed by a comprehensive and coordinated approach to combat climate change. They shed light on the economic opportunities inherent in green initiatives, renewable energy, and sustainable practices, providing examples from other nations that reaped environmental and economic rewards.
Furthermore, the media underscored the need for climate education and awareness. They believed that the Climate Change Council would play a vital role in facilitating educational outreach and engaging the public in climate action. Addressing climate change, they contended, was a collective effort that involved every Nigerian and ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Fortunately, this important requirement is provided for in Section 26 of the Act.
The Media as Agenda Setter
One of the fundamental roles of the media is ‘agenda setting and leading transformation’. On the international scene, one unique event that clearly demonstrates, the agenda-setting and transformation role of the media is the scandal involving former United States President, Richard Nixon. The scandal is popularly known as the “Watergate Scandal”. The Watergate scandal stands as a quintessential example of the media’s agenda-setting power. Investigative reporting, notably by The Washington Post, brought this political crisis to the forefront of global attention.
The media’s role in shaping public discourse and driving discussions about government accountability and transparency became evident. Watergate underscored the media’s capacity to set the agenda, revealing how journalism can profoundly influence the direction of dialogue and the course of history.
The Nigerian media has played this role effectively and I strongly reckon that they would continue in this laudable part. This role has greatly influenced the Nigerian legislature but more importantly, it has transformed and enhanced awareness about the Climate Change Act and climate action, thereby influencing the recognition of my humble role in the climate change space in Nigeria through the sponsorship of the Nigerian Climate Law 2021.
In Nigeria, the agenda-setting role of the Nigerian media played a pivotal role in the exit of two former Senate Presidents and a one-time Speaker of the House of Representatives, Salisu Buhari. Through in-depth investigative reporting and public awareness campaigns, the media exposed issues of misconduct and integrity, placing them at the forefront of public and political discourse. This empowered the public to demand accountability, ultimately resulting in the departures of these high-ranking officials.
As an agenda setter, the Nigerian media sector has continued to lend its voice to developmental issues. This noble role led to the recognition of my commitment to climate change and action advocacy. In 2021, the Press Corps of the House of Representatives presented an “Award of Excellence” in recognition of my excellent performance as the Dean of Bills/Most Dedicated Lawmaker of the Year 2021 due to my tenacity and commitment to the passage of the Climate Change Act. This was followed by another award in 2022 by the umbrella body of media practitioners in Nigeria, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Legislative Awards for “Excellence on Bills and Motions”.
The recognition also extended to 2023 when the specialised medium, Order Paper considered me worthy as one of the five legislators to be recognised with VIP Rating on Bills Sponsorship and subsequent induction into the 9th National Assembly Most Valuable Parliamentarian (MVP) Hall of Fame. These awards and recognition have created more awareness and deepened the interest and commitment to issues of climate change and action.
The intersection of the media and the legislature in crafting the Nigerian Climate Change Act of 2021 is a vivid illustration of how collaboration can drive climate action. The legislature, through its law-making powers, laid the legal foundation for action. The media, as the Fourth Estate, took on the roles of advocacy, awareness, and accountability, ensuring that the government met its environmental responsibilities.
As Nigeria charts its course towards a sustainable, climate-resilient future, the media remains a pivotal partner in this transformative journey. Their role extends beyond advocacy; it includes the amplification of awareness about the act, its provisions, and the actions that individuals can take to contribute to climate resilience. They must be vigilant in holding the government accountable for the Act’s full implementation, investigating and reporting on the progress and challenges.
In this collaborative effort between the legislature and the media, Nigeria can accelerate the transition to a more sustainable, climate-resilient future. With the enactment of the Nigerian Climate Change Act of 2021 and the establishment of the National Council on Climate Change, the nation stands on the cusp of significant change. The media, with their formidable reach and influence, can serve as the catalyst for a climate-conscious society, urging collective action and inspiring hope for a greener, more resilient future.
As we move forward, the synergy between the media and the legislature is not just essential; it is transformative. It holds the potential to effect profound change, addressing climate change not as a distant challenge but as a collective responsibility. In doing so, Nigeria is poised to stand as a shining example of how a nation can work together to protect the environment, mitigate climate change, and secure a sustainable future for generations to come.