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Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Xenophobia, Multichoice and Migration

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
The constant xenophobic violence unleashed on Nigerians living in South Africa has a constant reminder for the millions of Nigerians who subscribed to the paid television services of the wholly South African operated Multichoice television otherwise known as DSTV.
This reminder that the series of xenophic attacks on Nigerians in South African signals to Nigerians at home is the need to once and for all take our destiny in our hands and check how we continue to funnel our hard earned resources to a company from a very hostile environment such as South Africa.
These constant deadly attacks on Nigerians in south Africa although very negative, but it has one positive take away which is the definitive need for Nigerians and the Nigerian government to do the needful to support only businesses and services provided by companies owned fully or substantially by Nigerians just as the paid television sub-sector of the economy of Nigeria is one such area that millions of Nigerians must exercise their people’s power and transfer their patronage to such companies like Startimes/NTA; from MTN to Glo; from DSTV to Startimes; from Shoprite to Sahara/Next cash and carry and from Stanbic IBTC to a bank like Zenith; UBA; Fidelity; Union Bank; Access and a few other Nigerian fully operated finance houses/institutions.
Specifically, this current xenophobic violence against Nigerians in South Africa should be the deciding factor to once and for all resolve the issue of exploitative charges against Nigerians by DSTV.
The case of exploitation of Nigerian customers by the Multichoice company which is the operator of DSTV in Nigeria is over ten years now and each time the case gets to court, because the south African firm is wealthy enough to engage in full scale litigation and because the local jurisprudence is such tough terrain, millions of long suffering Nigerian subscribers of DSTV have continued to suffer in silence and like people under a spell, most of these Nigerians have also not bothered to explore other identical services such as those of the Nigerian versus China owned Startimes television which charges affordable rates and have proven to be equipped with the best technology available globally. 
By the way, China is the world leader in the area of telecommunication going by the dominance of a Chinese firm Huawei which has developed the 5G spectrum which even Great Britain; Germany; Australia and most other advanced democracies have embraced. So why the delay by Nigerians to massively migrate over to Startimes from DSTV?
The most seamless way of responding to these attacks of xenophobic dimension in Nigeria is to stop paying South African operated companies and to look inwards and as stated earlier, the south African company such as DSTV/Multichoice has a notoriety for being a national tormentor of millions of Nigerians through unfair tariff regime. No need to nationalize these South African companies because of the negative global impacts it may have in our economy because foreign direct investors may be discouraged from investing their money in an environment whereby government could apply fiat suddenly and take away their hard earned businesses. Best bet is for millions of Nigerians to revolt positively and migrate from patronising South African companies because paying these companies is like empowering the xenophobic attackers in South Africa against our people who live there. By the way there is no single fully Nigerian operated conglomerate similar to DSTV in South Africa now. 
DSTV and the Nigerian people have had constant confrontations along this line leading to numerous raids initiated by Nigeria’s consumer protection council in the last few years.
In 2015, the Consumer Protection Council, CPC, said that its aim of investigating activities and services of Digital Satellite Television, DSTV, was not to upturn the judgment of the court which ruled in favour of Multichoice Nigeria on the recent price increase saga, but to give attention to barrage of reports reaching its offices alleging unsatisfactory service offerings by the PayTv operator. Dupe Atoki Head of the CPC Lagos Office, Mr. Tam Tamunokobia, in a telephone conversation with Hi-Tech then said that  although the court had ruled that price hike was a contractual agreement between the operator and its subscribers which also gives the subscribers liberty to withdraw from using the services when the prices are not comfortable for them, the commission would however not dismiss the barrage of complaints pouring into its offices on daily basis alleging unsatisfactory service offerings by the operator.
“You may be aware that the court ruled in their favour on the price increase case but we will not throw the concerns and complaints of million Nigerians away. So we have decided to extend the investigation beyond the price increase. For instance there are allegations of poor decoder swap deals, constant loss of signals and undue disconnection before due date of subscription, among others. We will look into all these and what our investigations reveal, will determine the line of action we will take” Tamunokobia said.
Recall that Multichoice Nigeria had introduced a 20 per cent hike in the fees charged subscribers for using the DSTV service to take effect from April 1, 2015. However, two Lagos-based lawyers, Oluyinka Oyeniji and Osasuyi Adebayo, quickly initiated a class action on behalf of millions of Nigerians who criticised the new subscription rates as exploitative and insensitive. The two lawyers had sought the order of the court to stop MultiChoice or its agents from implementing the price increase and also asked the court to compel the National Broadcasting Commission to take steps to monitor and regulate MultiChoice operations in Nigerian to ensure that it does not hike their fees arbitrarily.
The two applicants said they were expecting the NBC to ensure that they compel DSTV to deal with Nigerians the same way DSTV deals with other subscribers in other parts of the continent where MultiChoice operates, by ensuring that the pay-per-view scheme was introduced in the country. It was an arrangement they argued, would ensure that Nigerian subscribers to DSTV would only pay for programmes actually watched, as is the case in South Africa. Objecting to the application, counsel to MultiChoice, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), urged the court to deny the plaintiffs their demands and discountenance their pleas, reminding the court that it did not have the legal authority to regulate what the company decides to charge its customers for its services. But despite getting judgment in her favour it appears Multichoice may still battle the dissatisfaction of many DSTV subscribers for a long time. Many subscribers who are miffed over the increase still believe that the PayTV operator could still be in business if it reviews its prices a bit downwards. Some of them described the increase as lack of respect and regard for its Nigerian subscribers since according to them; it does not arbitrarily increase prices in South Africa.
Tamunokobia revealed that the CPC has served Multichoice with a written notice of investigation and was waiting for the company’s reply. Hi-Tech gathered that part of the notice, signed by the council’s Director General, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, spelt out that many subscribers had complained of “poor quality of service such as incessant disruption of service without compensation while subscription is current; wrongful abrupt disconnection of service during subsisting subscriptions; monthly subscriptions lasting less than 30 days; and poor redress mechanism and customer services.” Others, it said, include “advertisements on customer care lines at the expense of consumers; poor implementation of decoder swap policy; and effecting price increase for subscriptions despite payment before due date of increase.”
On October 2015, officials of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) raided the head office the premier pay-tv service provider, MultiChoice Nigeria, in Lagos.
The CPC officials, who went with a warrant, were accompanied by policemen and journalists when they arrived at the company’s office at about 1pm. The raid saw CPC officials leaving with laptop, computers and important documents about the company’s operations. The reason for the raid is yet unclear.
However, there are speculations that the raid may connected with the hitch that has developed in the CPC’s ongoing investigation into MultiChoice’s consumer satisfaction initiatives.
Sources at the CPC had disclosed that a hitch developed during a scheduled meeting between the company and CPC officials at the commission’s head office in Abuja on Tuesday. The breakdown was said to have been occasioned by CPC’s demand that MultiChoice should hand over personal information of its subscribers as well as its exclusive contract in Nigeria.
The MultiChoice team, led by Managing Director, Mr. John Ugbe, was said to have drawn the attention of the CPC to the fact that the company owes its subscribers a duty to protect their personal information.
The company, added sources, took time to explain that releasing sensitive information about subscribers, as requested, would amount to a breach of the trust subscribers reposed in the it when they signed up to its services.
Multichoice representatives were quoted to have expressed readiness to cooperate with the CPC in its effort to ensure that subscribers obtain improved customer satisfaction, but rejected the demand that violates subscribers’ confidentiality.
The company had explained that the one of the ways in which it provides customer service to its subscribers is by keeping the information they have entrusted in its care.
Multichoice was also said to have explained that its exclusive contract contains non-disclosure clauses and wondered what relevance it has to an investigation into customer satisfaction.
These cock and bull stories by DSTV must now come to an end naturally by massively encouraging Nigerians to switch over to STARTIMES/NTA services which most average warming Nigerians can afford. 
*Emmanuel Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs

Nigeria under you is repressive; unsafe-: HURIWA to President Buhari

A prominent civil society advocacy group – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to comply with clearly established constitutional norms and allow for unfettered enjoyments of the constitutionally safeguarded freedoms.
HURIWA has also carpeted the Secretary General of the United Nations Mr. Antonio Guteres for aiding and abetting the rise of incipient tyranny in Nigeria and conferring global status on the Nigerian Government that currently keeps over a dozen political prisoners through a combination of reward system such as the appointment of Muhammadu Buhari's Environment minister Mrs Amina Mohammed as Deputy Secretary General and another Northern Nigerian appointee of President Muhammadu Buhari as President of the United Nations General Assembly Professor Muhammad Bande.  
The pro-democracy group (HURIWA) also reminded president Buhari that since his government has produced the president of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in the person of professor Tijani Muhammad-Bande which is a phenomenal momentum in the life of the administration, it would be ironical that his government has become so repressive and intolerant of opposition views and has made the country a police state even amidst widespread insecurity and professional misconduct by the police. "Nigeria has never been this bad with a General collapse of law enforcement by the police and an unprecedented rise in arbitrary arrests and detention. We are a police state whose police operatives are grossly incompetent to be able to go after the criminals making life intolerable for millions of Nigerians and at the same time the police and the sister security service (DSS) have become willing tools in the hands of the Abuja tyrant who has since unleashed a regime of brutal CLAMPDOWN on civil activists and journalists brandishing choreographed charges that lack justification ".  
“It is indeed a big irony that whilst Nigeria is becoming a police state due to the execution of well-coordinated attacks on pro-democracy activists and journalists using the security forces of Department of State Services (DSS) and a brutal but inefficient police force, the same administration is at the same time credited with reaching a global milestone in the specific case of a diplomatic achievement of having an appointee of the repressive and brutal regime ascending the prestigious seat of the presidency of the United Nations General Assembly for a whooping one year. It is either that the United Nation system is tolerant of dictatorship or the hierarchy of the United Nations is  dangerously incompetent and uninformed about the stark realities of excruciating pains systematically inflicted by the current federal government on a massive scale targeting millions of Nigerians”.
In a media statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, the Rights group stated that there is no evidence anywhere in Nigeria to show that Nigeria is in a constitutional democracy.
“Huriwa wonders how a government that is produced through the ballots, will so regress to a level that free speech is criminalized and journalists and activists are hounded and thrown into detention for a long period of time even as the nation’s judiciary has capitulated to the coordinated firepower of repression using security forces and anti-corruption agencies”.
HURIWA recalled that a Nigerian journalist, Agba Jalingo, has been in police detention for over a week, over a report about an alleged diversion of N500 million by the Cross River governor, which he authored for which the Federal government has allowed the across Rivers State governor to deploy Federally funded security forces to arrest, detain and now institute a charge of treason.
HURIWA recalled that  Jalingo, who is the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, a Cross River State-based newspaper, was arrested and detained over a petition by the government’s owned microfinance bank following the report in his newspaper which has relentlessly criticised Ben Ayade, the state governor.
HURIWA recalled that the journalist who was arrested in Lagos and driven by road to Calabar, the capital city of the Cross River State, had sued the police over his arrest and detention, which he said were illegal and a breach of his fundamental human rights. He is asking a court to order the police to pay him N150 million as damages for the manner he was allegedly maltreated.
But while a judge is yet to hear Mr. Jalingo’s fundamental human rights case, the police have instituted a four-count charge of treasonable felony, terrorism, cultism, and the disturbance of public peace on the journalist.
The charges which were filled at the Federal High Court in Calabar, also indicated that Mr. Jalingo was working with the #RevolutionNow movement of the detained publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, to destabilize the government and “undemocratically” force the government of Mr. Ayade to end through violent means. 
HURIWA believes that the use of the Federal might to deal with the Journalist goes to confirm that there is indeed a well calculated agenda unfolding whose objective is to institute full blown tyranny at every levels of government and to curtail the enjoyment of constitutional freedoms. 
HURIWA also accused the Federal government of crude vendetta against the publisher of going by the fact that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) accused Mr Sowore, a former presidential candidate, of planning to forcibly topple the government through his #RevolutionNow protest. Mr. Sowore who was arrested by the State Security Security (SSS) is being held on court-ordered extended detention for 45 days.
HURIWA recalled that the Department of State Services (DSS) says it suspected that Omoyele Sowore, a candidate in Nigeria's last presidential election wanted to work with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) to topple the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
HURIWA recalled that the federal government proscribtion of both IPOB and Islamic Movement of Nigeria   as terrorist organizations shows that Constitutional democracy is under intensive attacks by elements embedded in the Federal government. The Rights group said it was also inconceivable that the Court agreed due to fear to grant indefinite detention order against Omoyele SOWORE even when the DSS said  in an affidavit attached to its counter-argument against the application of Sowore challenging his detention that they have PROOFS of a plot by the activist to topple government just as the Rights group expressed shock that the judge refused the bail application even when under the constitution an accused person is assumed innocent until a contrary determination is reached through a court of law. 
The affidavit read: “The respondent/applicant (Sowore) planned to violently change the government through the hashtag RevolutionNow. 
HURIWA has therefore for the umpteenth time demanded the immediate release of all the political prisoners by the Federal government.  

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Terrorists, Army and Media glamour

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai is a hard core military officer with some impressive academic laurels. He is reputed to have garnered good enough battle fields’ credentials which in the first instance qualified him for the top job in what is regarded as the biggest Army in Africa. 
But he has also shown dexterity for effective media and public communication. The Nigerian Army runs an open and an accessible media department. Nigeria is blessed also with highly trained professional media workers. I must therefore state that there is a working synergy between the media and the Army. This active partnership intensified with the coming of the current Army Chief of Staff.  
As the head of the Nigerian Army at a time of tumultuous national security challenge thrown at us by the armed boko haram terrorists, he has not shied away from leading the battle from the war front. Wherever he goes, the media is kept abreast of the progress of the war on terror in line with the Freedom of information Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  
On one of his many visits to the flashpoints of the war on terror in the North East of Nigeria, he was quoted in the media as throwing some words of caution to the media practitioners on the need to exercise professional caution and play the social responsibility role as the conscience of the nation in total compliance with the section 22 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It is notorious that section 22 of the Nigerian constitution provides as follows: “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 to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people”.
As a public officer abreast of these noble roles assigned to the media, the chief of Army staff as I said, challenged the media practitioners to ensure that the terrorists unleashing devastating destructions and violence on the Nigerian state are not made social celebrities through generous reportage of their dare-devil activities.
The Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, urged the Nigerian press to stop using “glorifying” titles while addressing the Boko Haram insurgents.
Buratai, a Lieutenant General, said addressing the insurgents with titles like ISWAP, or JAS only glorifies and gives them “undue publicity.”
He said calling the insurgents such names “has further boosted the image of the criminal gang thus assuming larger than life status.”
Buratai made the plea in Maiduguri while visiting troops in the North-east.
Speaking through the acting Director Army Public Relation, Sagir Musa, the army chief said “it is wrong for any person to eulogize or support murderers, bandits and armed robbers that the known Boko Haram terrorists group has turned into.
“Consequently, referring to such gang of criminals, bandits, insurgents such as Boko Haram Terrorists Group, JAS or ISWAP in Nigeria could amount to supporting or encouraging terrorism.”
His words: “the Chief of Army Staff said that it is also important to note that the mode of operation of these elements is pure criminality for personal gains.
“It is common knowledge that the criminals no longer pretend to be championing any cause other than quest for materialism as manifested in murder and terror on hapless people.”
He said Gen. Buratai had pleaded that “as peace loving people, Nigerians should not be glorifying these criminals by calling them by any name other than “criminals,” “rapists,” “kidnappers”, “armed robbers” and “murderers.”
“Unfortunately, many Nigerians are not aware that giving prominence to the criminal activities of the terrorists group through sensational headlines and fake news in both electronic and print media could also amount to tacit support to terrorism which violates the Terrorism Prevention Act 2011.
“It is therefore important that all Nigerians to rally round our gallant troops as they fight these criminals. All should know that the support to the efforts of the Armed Forces of Nigeria in the counter terrorism efforts would boost their morale and it will be highly appreciated.
“The Nigerian Army is asking for the continued understanding and cooperation of all Nigerians and well-meaning people.”
There is no gain saying the obvious that these observations by the top military officer is a reality that the media managers must confront with the zeal that it requires so as not to endanger the nation’s national security interests.
The observations have also come at a time a certain vexatious glamorization of the terrorists occurred in some sections of the media. 
This has to do with a report that went viral to the effect that the boko haram terrorists have signified their intention to bomb South African interests to teach the government of President Cyril Ramaphosa a lesson on why he must not encourage xenophobic violence against Nigerians and other blacks living in South Africa by black South Africans.
The purveyors of these sorts of tainted story may have set out to confer undue high profile status on boko haram terrorists and to rubbish the current Nigerian government over what is perceived as a weak response to the cocktails of xenophobic attacks against other blacks by black South Africans.
Ironically, this substantial fake news trended alongside another tendentious and unsubstantiated rumor of the bombing of the south African embassy in Abuja circulated resulting in the intervention by the Nigerian government which rightly showed that the video been circulated was from the scene of the previous bomb attack some years back at the Barnex plaza vicinity in  Wuse 2, Abuja.
In effect, what it implies for the media to continue to give generous coverage to the terrorists in glamourizing characteristic is what Robert Greene spoke about in the Number 7 law of powers of his book on the laws of powers thus: “Get others to do the work for you, but  always take the credit”. 
It therefore goes without further debate to stress that if the media glamour created by the media for the terrorists is not checked it means that terrorists have used the media to reap the advantage of this number 7 law as enunciated by the journalist Mr. Robert Greene.
However, we must pause and ask the hard question whether this glamorization of the activities of boko haram terrorists is a deliberate ploy to undermine national security. 
As a media practitioner myself, and after over two decades on the job, I must emphatically state that the Nigerian media does not have any deliberate agenda to destabilize national security.
I must state that the media in a lot of occasions, have actually demonstrated the highest sense of national duty to the truth just as the observance of the virtue of objectivity, balance and adherence to the truth in news reporting, is the guiding principle of many national media houses that I know. And I know so many.
Another question to ask is if the pursuit for commercial profits may have influenced the texture, color and sometimes sensational headlines the media manager gives to stories on the terror activities of boko haram in the last ten years unknowingly.
To this question, I will refer to the authoritative media book by Dan F. Hahn titled: “Political Communication; Rhetoric, Government and Citizens”. 
The author is of the opinion that media houses are in business essentially to make profit in as much as they are ethically guided to adhere to their social responsibility duty to the nation in which they operate. 
He wrote that the media are biased towards what makes money.
“The commercial media exist to make money for the owners. Like any business they do what they must to make. Political ideologues who assume media personnel are in the business of “selling” political positions misunderstands the business in which media owners and practitioners are engaged. What media really do is sell their readers and viewers to their advertisers. The more readers or viewers they have, the more they charge for an ad. That means they have to keep the public happy, which they cannot do if they are too obviously political”.
The author also examined this commercial theme governing the running of media industry as follows: “Their commercial nature favors whatever will make money and leads to at least two deleterious effects that have political consequences—trivialization and a conflict orientation”
Citing the well-respected Peter J. Boyer, the author of Who Killed CBS, a book about the history of the CBS News Division, the author was quick to remind us that the pursuit of profits as the essence of media business makes it stronger to attribute the trivialization of the news to the money-seeking nature of television. 
He argues that when the big corporations took over the television networks, one of the first changes was to order that the news divisions, which always had been partially subsidized by the entertainment divisions, hence forth would have to pay for themselves. To meet that demands the news divisions “weapons agreements gave way to coverage of Zsa Zsa’s misdemeanor assault trial”.
He reminds us also that: “Another major effect of the moneymaking demand on media is a focus on conflict to the detriment of the search for truth."
He quoted Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and the author of You Just Don’t Understand, as having successfully explained this thesis in a recent article. 
She claims that in our society there is a fundamental belief that truth emerges from opposition. That too applies to our climes.  
Delving further on the underlying commercial interest behind media business, the author reminds us that Deborah Tannen said that orientation of essentially focusing on profits may explain why we place so much faith in debate. 
But, Dan Hahn stated that as Tannen points out, the media—as moneymaking institutions—do not seek out the most reasonable and informed partisans to represent the two sides. 
Rather, he said they often choose and air extreme views to satisfy the audience’s predilection for “watching a fight”. 
"Two problems, then: (1) the truth may not emerge from the clash of the two sides, because there may actually be four or five or twenty sides, and (2) even if the truth is there someplace, in what Tannen calls the “complex middle” rather than in the “simplified extremists who were brought together to produce steam for ratings rather than light for decision-making.”
But to be candid, the position of Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai is not far from the sacred task and duty that the constitution imposes on the media to balance their pursuit for profits viz-a-viz the need to safeguard national security interest which section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution has clearly espoused. 
The media must play the role of agenda setting mechanics of the nation state. 
Also the overwhelming demand of the greatest number of Nigerians is that the Army be supported to very rapidly restore stability to national security.  
This isn't too much to demand from the media. 
I hereby second the motion by General Buratai that the media plays the role of key stakeholders in the protection of our national security interest. 
*Emmanuel Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and;