Minister justifies quarterly town hall meetings

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

The Nigerian government has defended the recently introduced quarterly town hall meetings held across the six geo-political zones of the country, insisting that there is no substitute to the enlightenment programme, at least for now.

Information and National Orientation Minister, Lai Mohammed, confirmed this on Thursday in an interview with Voice of Nigeria, after appearing before the senate to defend the Ministry’s 2017 budget proposals.

According to the 2017 budget proposals, the quarterly town hall meetings of the Buhari administration spearheaded by the Information and National Orientation Ministry, is to gulp N100 million in the fiscal year; N25 million during each quarter.

The Ministry is also proposing to spend over N400 million for some other grassroots enlightenment and mobilization programmes in the 774 local government areas, and Mr Mohammed believes the effort is worth the expenses.

“Nigerians need to be enlightened about certain things that will even make them live better and longer. For instance, I said, when there was lasser fever we need to let Nigerians know what they can do to prevent lasser fever because it is a deadly disease. We want to let them know that they can contact it when rats urinate on their foods, so don’t spread your food items where rats will have access to them. Nigerians must be alive first before they can enjoy what government is doing for them,” he emphasized.

“And this quarterly survey is supposed to let government know how the people are feeling so that we can also re-jig where necessary because it serves as an effective feedback mechanism. Whenever we go for the town hall meetings, it gives the people an opportunity to meet with the Ministers and respond to the questions about what government is doing for the people,” he further stressed.

The government spokesman also hinted that certain measures were being put in place to rebrand the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) to enable it sustain its status as the country’s flagship TV station. He said the “New NTA” is expected to be unveiled before the digital transmission era takes off fully.

Also speaking on the budget defence session, Chairman of the Senate committee on Information and National Orientation, Senator Suleiman Adokwe, urged officials of the ministry and other agencies under it, to develop and sustain the culture of keeping archives for the sake of the future generations.