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Published On: Fri, Jul 25th, 2014

Examining Nigerian style information management in crisis situation

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Director of Defence Information, Maj-Gen Chris OlukoladeBy Kayode Olaitan

Information experts believe that since crises are complex in nature; the effective control of crisis situations rests on a society’s ability to gather and treat information on time.

Jason Chan, an Information Manager in the Prime Minister’s Office in Singapore, says that the effects of a crisis can undermine a country’s ability to operate effectively.

He also observes that, if not checked, crises can result in serious harm to the affected country; its people, structures, assets and reputation.

Chan insists that crisis management is a critical organisational function, which involves planning and dynamic response to crisis situations as they unfold, often in unpredictable ways.

He, however, emphasises that the ease by which information can be collected and transmitted to a wider audience by using social media tools via multiple parties, including non-governmental organisations and individual citizens, will go a long way in efforts to control crisis.

Back home in Nigeria, a dreadful crisis that is facing the country and its citizens is the growing menace of Boko Haram insurgents.

The Boko Haram insurgents claimed responsibility for the bombing of the United Nations (UN) building and Nyanya Motor Park in Abuja, among several others, and the spate of their attacks in parts of the country of late has been a source of worry to the Federal Government.

The Boko Haram violence reached a crescendo on April 14, 2014, shortly after the Nyanya Motor Park bombing, when more than 200 female students of Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno, were abducted from their school premises.

Concerned observers moan that since the escalation of the Boko Haram insurgency, some citizens, particularly political leaders, have not been able to separate sentiments from realities, as they tend to politicise issues behind the raging crisis unduly.

Communication experts, nonetheless, argue that information management, shortly after the Chibok girls’ abduction, was somewhat deficient, as it was not properly coordinated.

For instance, Mr Wale Ajetumobi, a journalist, said that the inconsistency in the information management became obvious when the Nigerian Army claimed that it had rescued 107 Chibok girls during its Search and Rescue Operations.

He noted that in a swift reaction; the principal of the girls’ school, Mrs Asabe Kwambura, rejected the claim as untrue.

He said: “The information about the coming of American soldiers on a rescue mission to Nigeria was also contested.

“While the U.S. government said that it responded to the invitation of the Nigerian government to help in the girls’ rescue operation, a piece of information claimed that Nigeria only accepted the U.S. offer to help.

“However, the Northern State Governors’ Forum clarified the matter, saying that the coming of the U.S. army to rescue the abducted Chibok schoolgirls was the outcome of the meeting between the Federal Government and the U.S. government.’’

The Minister of Finance, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, also conceded that communication on the abducted schoolgirls was not streamlined.

In a recent interview with the Cable News Network (CNN) Okonjo-Iweala said that the “volatility of Boko Haram prevents detailed information from being released.

“This is a very delicate situation with an unpredictable group; and I think that maybe, this is one of the areas where we have not been able to communicate as well as we can,’’ she added.

Nevertheless, Okonjo-Iweala said that the people’s focus should shift from what the government did wrong to its current move to protect school children via the Safe Schools Initiative.

The minister restated the commitment of the Federal Government to rescuing the girls, insisting that the government would not leave them to their fate.

As part of efforts to bridge the communication gap and streamline information in the campaign against the Boko Haram insurgency, the Federal Government inaugurated the National Information Centre (NIC), which has Mr Mike Omeri, the Director-General of National Orientation Agency (NOA), as its Coordinator.

Observers, however, underscore the need to address the other security challenges facing the country via the provision of adequate and factual information to enlighten the citizens.

They also note that while appreciable media focus is currently on ongoing on efforts to secure the freedom of the abducted girls, the NIC has also been proactive in supplying useful information.

As part of efforts to ensure the success of the war against Boko Haram insurgency, Omeri, at a recent forum in Abuja, urged the citizens, particularly politicians, to desist from playing politics with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

He stressed that Nigerian troops were already in the forest searching for the abducted girls, with additional support from friendly nations.

Clarifying some issues concerning the Federal Government’s plan to get a loan of one billion U.S. dollars, Omeri said that the loan would not be given in cash.

“The loan request is not for the government of Nigeria to go and collect cash; it is a long-term arrangement in which most superpowers are involved.

In the same vein, Mr Frank Mba, the Force Police Public Relations Officer, said that investigations on the Chibok girls were ongoing, adding that the Federal Government had pledged to secure the girls’ liberation as soon as possible.

Analysts, however, warn that the indiscriminate supply of sensitive information may impact negatively on the ongoing war against Boko Haram insurgency.

Mr Churchill Oyowe, an Information Officer in Delta State’s Ministry of Information, noted that the consequences of disclosing intelligence and strategic information could be dire and counterproductive in the fight against the insurgents.

“Such information is capable of arming the insurgents with clues on how to re-strategise and avoid being detected, monitored or even captured.

“Invariably, this kind of scenario would likely not produce the desired outcome of liberating the kidnapped Chibok girls.

“Before America’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Ladin was killed, nobody, except the planning team, knew that the U.S. was studying his movements via satellite.

“It was later that the details of three years of intelligence and strategic planning, which led to Osama’s death, were made public,’’ he said.

He assured Nigerians that the security agencies had enough equipment to fight the Boko Haram insurgents and curtail their activities.

“Contrary to insinuations in some quarters that the insurgents have more sophisticated weapons, our soldiers are more equipped and well-trained to curtail their activities. NAN



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