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Over the years, the oil-producing areas of the Niger Delta have been engulfed in series of crises which is a major challenge to the development of the region. Efforts have been made to restore peace and engender development by various administrations at different times. Unfortunately, such efforts do not always go deep in pacifying or completely eliminating hostilities in the region, as such, development of the region has remained, at most, seriously glowed down. It is against this backdrop that this study undertakes an analysis of the performance of the mass media in the development of the Niger Delta region. Employing the survey research method, the researcher generated data using the questionnaire and in-depth interview. The study found among other things that, mass media agencies are mostly located in the cities where majority of the people who are rural dwellers cannot have access to; participate and contribute to development issues through the media. On the other hand, the mass media in the region are constrained in their performance by a wide range of factors, one of which is multi-lingual differences. In view of this, the researcher recommended among other things that, the mass media in the Niger Delta region should be more thorough, pragmatic and development-oriented in their programmes and coverage around the region.
1.1 Background of the Study
According to section 22 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the press; radio, television and other agencies of mass media are to uphold the fundamental objectives of holding government responsible and accountable (Okoro and Okolie 2004).
The mass media are collectively regarded as the fourth estate of the realm complementing the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary. In this elevated status, the media [are] charged to be the watchdog of the Nigerian democratic system of government concerned with the public awareness and preservation of the national ethics, discipline, integrity, dignity of person and labour, social justice, religious and cultural tolerance and patriotism.
It is the duty of the mass media in Nigeria to ensure that there is openness, accountability and transparency in governance. It is also the duty of the mass media to investigate issues properly in order to accurately analyze the issue for public hearing. In other words, it is part of the expectations of the Nigerian constitution that the mass media would or should educate the masses on national ideas, play the key role of addressing social ills in the nation, increase literacy level by sensitizing the populace on the need for basic education and also generate support for government programme and orientate the citizens towards nation building for the overall development of society, (Aguwa and Ehiodu, 2005, pp.113-114).
In view of the provisions and expectations of the mass media by the Nigerian constitution as stipulated in the aforementioned sections, it becomes, not only necessary but urgent to review the performance of the mass media in view of the deplorable and deteriorating condition of the Niger Delta Region.
Analyzing the performance of the mass media in the development equation in society is very crucial. Just as those in business world and those in government review, evaluate and re-evaluate their business decisions and governmental policies, it has become imperative for similar exercise in the field of mass communication.
The mass media system exists not in isolation, but within the human society and so can impact on the society in different ways. Due to this obvious truth, experts in the profession have, over time, propagated theories upon whose framework studies on mass media impact/influence on society have been based. Studies on how well the mass media can function to aid development in societies are not in short supply, and so, it does not really occur to the proponent of this study that a new ground is quite about to be broken. But the necessity of reviewing, evaluating and re-evaluating the performance of the mass media in aiding the overall growth and/or advancement of a nation has thrown up the urge to take a strategic look at the developmental roles of the mass media in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
The Niger Delta region of Nigeria comprises mainly of Akwa Ibom State, Bayelsa State, Cross River State; Delta State, Edo State and Rivers State. These states constitute what is presently called the South-South zone of the six geo-political zones in Nigeria, and they are all bearers of black gold.
Currently, the Niger Delta Region is characterized by series of issues ranging from poverty, lack of access to good water and roads linking up the rural areas, and general lack of social and economic infrastructure, to militancy and armed attacks. Some writers describe the Niger Delta as “a populous area inhabited by a diversity of minority ethnic groups”. These diverse ethnic groups have had to contend with extensive environmental degradation and pollution from oil activities that occur in the region since the late 1950s, (Aaron, 2005, pp.1-3).
This frustrating environmental and social condition has provided the basis against which the youths in the area have directed their grievances. It is this factor that gave rise to conflict, and the concomitant rise of plenty of ‘conflict entrepreneurs who derive enormous political and social capital, hence the place has been rendered a war zone where beneficiaries engage in economic opportunism and military adventurism, (Idumange, 2011).
In response to the deplorable condition of the region wrought by oil explorations, and the confrontations by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), and other militant groups, the federal government created the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the Niger Delta Ministry and the Amnesty Programme were created by Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
These efforts are frantic measures taken to address and resolve the problems of the Niger Delta Region. But what puzzles the mind of the researcher, however, is the place of the mass media in the realization of the development objectives in this region.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Due to the growing economic and developmental issues, resistance seems to have been most vigorous in the Niger Delta. Violent resistance (or what some analysts call criminality) has been directed against both the government and oil companies in the region. The motive force of this resistance is the severe condition of poverty worsened by the havoc done to their environment as a result of oil exploration. Consequently, their means of livelihood are seriously and adversely affected.
The initial resistance by the people took the form of verbal agitations, written petitions, protest delegations, vigils, mass rallies, demonstrations, boycotts, trespassing, threat etc. Later on, other forms of struggle (resistance) such as the sabotage of oil operations, destruction of company and public property, vandalization and looting of equipment, kidnapping and various other acts were adopted Nnoli (2001, p.234).
These actions have always had adverse effect on both the people and the Federal Government as the activities cause instant drop in the GNP of Nigeria. In view of this, the Federal government of Nigeria established the Niger Delta Development Commission to assist in responding to the development needs of the people in the year 2000 under President Olusegun Obasanjo. In 2009, due to persisted resistance, President Yar’Adua initiated the Amnesty Programme and created the Niger Delta Ministry to address the same conditions of underdevelopment in the region.
Despite these efforts, the youths, especially the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) have relapsed into violence. It seems that there is a disconnect between the people, especially the rural dwellers of this region and the various agencies whose mandate is to facilitate and improve the condition of living of the people. In providing a synergy between these agencies and the Niger Delta people, the role of the mass media is indispensible.
Kugbere (2009) in her study on the Niger Delta region found out that communication and language through the mass media play a very important role both in the causative and management of crisis. Her study inferred that crisis cannot be said to be completely resolved in spite of relative peace.
Alikor (2009) in a study on “Public perception of the role of mass media in conflict management in Rivers State” found that poverty and unemployment have been contributive to the economic crises in the Niger Delta region despite mass media campaigns. Hence, he recommends proactive approach by all stakeholders involved.
Based on the above findings, the gap that this study tries to fill finds expression in the trend of development communication as a panacea to the Niger Delta crises. Hence, the researcher wants to analyze the performance of mass media in the development of the Niger Delta region (using development communication) from 2009 to 2011
1.3 Objectives of the Study
This work is guided by the following objectives:
1) To find out the extent of the performance of mass media in the development of the Niger Delta region.
2) To find out if mass media coverage help in de-emphasizing hostilities within the Niger Delta region.
3) To ascertain whether the mass media have encouraged greater or wider participation of rural dwellers in development process.
4) To ascertain the factors that hinder the performance of mass media in the development of Niger Delta region.
1.4 Research Questions
Based on the objectives of this study, the following research questions were asked in order to have clear direction for the study:
(1) What is the extent of the performance of the mass Media in the development of the Niger Delta region?
(2) How have mass media coverage de-emphasized hostility in the Niger Delta region?
(3) Do the mass media encourage participation of people in developmental issues in the Niger Delta?
(4) What factors hinder the performance of mass media in the development of the Niger Delta region?
1.5 Significance of the Study
This study is significant in many ways. First, the study contributes to society in helping to increase the awareness level of the rural dwellers on the ability of the mass media to address their developmental problems. Secondly, the study is academically useful in the sense that it adds to previous studies done in this area. Students and their instructors will find this study useful for further academic researches. Thirdly, the research work is useful for policy decisions. For mass media proprietors, it will help them to become more development minded by focusing more on issues that will help drive development. Finally, this study provides a platform to test claims made by other researchers on related studies using similar methods.
1.6 Scope of the Study
This study is limited to the actual-geographically defined states of the Niger Delta which include Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers states. These states are geo-politically defined as the South-South Zone of Nigeria. In other words, this study has its scope confined within the South-South Zone. We shall exclude Abia, Imo, Ogun and Ondo States in order not to cover an outrageously wide area.
1.7 Definition of Terms
We intend to give operational definition of terms to enable readers of the research study understand in specific terms what is meant by using a particular concept(s). The concepts and the meanings they carry apply most importantly and exclusively to this research work. In order to eliminate contextual ambiguities, the following are defined:
1) Aggressive Advocacy Campaign = Consistent mass media appeal with the purpose of getting a thing changed or established.
2) Collaborators = People, agents, agencies or institutions who come together with a common understanding of a common need so as to proffer solutions to such needs or problems collectively.
3) Niger Delta Region: Is the area comprising of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa Cross River, Delta, Edo and River States. These states constitute what is today known as the South-South Zone of the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. Note that Abia, Imo and Ondo States are equally referred to as part of the Niger Delta. In the context of this study only the South-South states are regarded as Niger Delta.
4) MEND: This is an acronym for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. It is a body that has been responsible for one of the struggles against repression and marginalization of the people. This group adopted somewhat extremist measures which include hostage-taking for ransom, armed shoot-outs, vandalization of oil facilities and oil bunkering.
5) NDDC: Stands for The Niger Delta Development Commission. It is a Federal Government agency established with the mandate of developing the oil-rich Niger Delta region in the year 2000 by President Olusegun Obasanjo.
6) Conflict Entrepreneurs: Are those who solicit for material gains in crisis or conflict situations. Their activities help to exacerbate crisis.
7) Economic Opportunism: As a result of the quest for oil wealth, some persons engage in certain illegal economic activities to make money.
8) Military Adventurism: This describes a situation where a lot of military activities such as arm bandicting both by soldiers and militant youths in order to gain access to oil wealth.
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