SOJOURNING THROUGH THE BAYELSA PUBLIC INFORMATION COMMITTEE

19 May

SOJOURNING THROUGH THE BAYELSA PUBLIC INFORMATION MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE
By: Idumange John
Wikipedia defines Information management (IM) as the collection and management of information from one or more sources and the distribution of that information to one or more audiences. This sometimes involves those who have a stake in, or a right to that information. Management means the organization of and control over the planning, structure and organization, controlling, processing, evaluating and reporting of information activities in order to meet the objectives and expectations of citizens.
For any organization to have stamina, integrity and credibility, Information must be made available and shared at all levels. In governmental administration, open, transparent and timely information sharing helps to simplify policy formulation, implementation and evaluation. Government owes the people a responsibility to explain the policies, plans and programmes. This is why government needs to keep, organize and manage information to address the needs, desires and aspirations of the citizens. In fact good governance thrives on good information management.
Upon inauguration by Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, the Bayelsa Public Information Management Committee saw the challenge of managing information in the State as stipulated in the terms of references. The veritable starting point was to hold a strategy meeting to fashion out a well thought-out work plan in which there are short, medium and long term goals. The work plan adopted by the Committee is a robust commitment for a proactive engagement with all segments of the people.
Foremost on the work plan is sensitization campaign. No sooner the Committee was inaugurated than the nomenclature was misunderstood to mean Rumour Management Committee. This wrong perception was corrected through radio commentaries, television discussion programmes and the social media. At every given opportunity, members of the Committee explained the mandate to people who were eager to know if the Committee was established to gag the press or muscle the free speech. The Committee considered that rumour or false information is infinitesimal aspects of the vehicle of transmitting information to the people hence the Committee renewed its commitment to timely and accurately inform people about government policies, plans and programmes, thereby leaving no room for misinformation.
For purposes of reach and communicating with the youths, the Committee established a facebook page called Bayelsa Public Information Management which now serves as a vehicle for effective transmission of accurate information and to ensure a two-way communication between government and the people. To further reinforce this effort, a blog was created to upload the day to day activities of the Committee. This has paid off as the public is now aware of and has a better grasp of government policy thrust and her people-oriented programmes. More importantly, the modalities of implementing such policies were communicated to the people in a timely and accurate manner. This has reduced the incidence of peddling false information.
The Committee quickly followed this up with courtesy calls on media organizations and other stakeholders. The general misconception was that the Committee was constituted because of the inadequacies of existing channels and agencies of information dissemination. This is far from the truth as the Committee was established as a clearing house to work in synergy with other agencies of information dissemination beyond the traditional boundaries to ethical re-orientation, behaviour modification and attitudinal change. Such courtesy visits allayed the fears of stakeholders and enabled them to understand the mission of the Committee.
One of the mandates of the Committee is to obtain information via the hotlines so people could call from far and near to seek clarification on government policies, make inputs into government programmes or pinpoint gray areas with a view to alerting implementing authorities to improve on them. The Committee therefore set up a mechanism to obtain information/data from the public by employing two secretarial staff equipped with computers and other gadgets presently operating from the office of the Secretary to the Committee. Through this strategy, the Committee has intervened in controversial and knotty policies and programmes such as job creation, taxation, law enforcement, the Bayelsa Development and Investment Corporation, the State Universal Basic Education, SUBEB, the Environmental Sanitation Authority, the Free Education programme being implemented by the State Government and Scholarship Board. Other areas include pension administration, Due Process, security matters and government’s plans to resuscitate state-owned parastatals to create windows of employment opportunities, wealth creation and poverty reduction in line with
The Committee has already written to relevant MDAs in the State to provide updates on their activities with a view to having ready answers when and where necessary and to bridge the information gap between government and the people to reduce the spread of misinformation disseminated by mischief makers to distract the attention of government.
Precisely, on April 17th, 2013, the Committee followed this up by organizing an interactive session with civil society and media organizations. This session was revealing, as most of the earlier misconceptions were laid to rest. The interactive session further consolidated the position of the Committee in her resolve to carry out its assignment. It was an endorsement of why the Committee was set up and what it sets out to do. Since that interactive session more persons are now ready to put calls through the hotlines without concealing their identities. This has paved the way for more understanding between stakeholders and government.
As part of the sensitization exercise deigned to change the attitude of the people, the Committee is mounting billboards with pungent messages that will attract the attention of visitors including Foreign Direct Investment. Whereas some of the messages are targeted at value re-orientation and character molding, others address the issue of behaviour change, restoration of our cultural heritage, and the need to verify information before disseminating it. This exercise will be taken to the Local Government Areas of the State. Ultimately, youths will be positively affected by such messages on the billboards, banners and other public enlightenment materials.
To reinforce its relationship with the civil Community, a Town Hall Meeting with stakeholders has been proposed for May 22, 2013 to be held at the Banquet Hall, Government House, Yenagoa. About three hundred persons are expected to attend the event. All segments of society, traditional rulers, political appointees, civil servants, NGOs, CBOs, Women and Youth Groups and other relevant agencies will attend. The meeting will open the floodgate for further interactive Town Hall Meetings in all eight LGAs of the State. His Excellency, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson will be Special Guest of Honour while the Honourable Commissioner for Information and Orientation will be the keynote Speaker. The Town Halll Meeting will also feature a Guest Lecturer who will discuss Effective Information Management: A Tool for Sustainable Development.
The Committee has laid out programmes to adopt a bottom-up approach to information management and to adopt a collaborative approach to deliver on its mandate. One of such strategies is the sensitization of the citizens with a view to effecting attitudinal change in the youths through public enlightenment programmes on radio, television and town hall meetings among other community development training programmes. The Committee has fashioned out effective strategies to bridge the information gap between government and the people in order to reduce the spread of rumours, misinformation and propaganda disseminated by the mischief makers to distract the attention of government. Already stakeholders have bought into and established ownership of the strategy to re-enforce existing channels of communication to ensure that public information is brought to the people accurately and in a timely manner. Several CSOs have indicated interest to work with the Committee in executing its mandate.
It was for this reason that the Committee seeks the partnership and active collaboration of all stakeholders, professional bodies, civil society Organizations and CBOs, adding that every segment of society is important. The operations of the Committee are guided by openness, objectivity, truth and fairness. The Committee according to the Chairman will embark on enlightenment campaigns and adopt a bottom-up approach in information management. The Committee will also establish information centres in all the Local Government Headquarters and train champions in information management.

There is no gainsaying the fact that within the short period of its existence, the Committee has been proactive as expected, taking enviable strides in the consummation of its mandate. Plans are underway to follow through on all Town Hall Meetings and Focus Group Discussions to ensure a healthy exchange of ideas, clear ambiguities and ensure free flow of information between government and the people. Indeed, the Public information Management Committee has reconfigured the architecture of delivering value and re-engineering the concept of governance along the lines of managing information in the benefit of the citizenry. With the dynamism of its Chairman Chief Boma Spero-Jack and the enthusiasm of his vice Lady Gesiere Brisibe-Dorgu, information management can only be better.

John Idumange
is Secretary, Bayelsa Public Information Management Committee

NDTV APPEARANCE

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