FEDERAL government has called on members of the public to support the Nigerian military in the ongoing fight against terrorism, militancy, kidnapping and other vices in the country. Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who made the call in Abuja yesterday while declaring open a one-day training seminar for defence correspondents by the Defence Headquarters, DHQ, stressed that people must understand that the military was there to serve them and therefore, deserved of their maximum support. Represented by the permanent secretary in the ministry, Mrs. Ayotunde Adesugba, Mohammed recommended the putting in place of a sound public information strategy to enlighten Nigerians about the important roles the military had been tasked with to play in the country, noting that such programme would help reduce the level of misunderstanding of the legitimate role of the military in the management of internal conflicts. He said, “We should be able to keep the public abreast of other developmental services – and there are many – which we can offer and we are currently demonstrating this through ‘winning hearts and minds’ projects. “I believe that capacity building programmes of this nature are the veritable platforms that will assist in enriching the understanding of the media and all other stakeholders in the management of security information on the peculiarity of their responsibility. It is my hope that more of these programmes will be organized not only to broaden the knowledge and capacity of our media practitioners but to explore opportunities for more collaboration and synergy between the media and the security agencies. “It is noteworthy that this seminar is the first of its kind in recent time. To me, this is an indication that the current leadership of the Nigerian military is genuinely interested in transparency in the conduct of its operations. To reciprocate this gesture, the Ministry of Information and Culture will, at all times, offer its hands of fellowship and cooperation to the Defence Headquarters in the area of dissemination of information on the various operations being undertaken by the military. “As has often been stated, the media serves as mobilizer and stabiliser in bringing needed national cohesion and development. We must therefore seek their valued understanding, partnership and friendship,” the minister said. Earlier, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin said the 2016 defence correspondents seminar with the theme, ‘Constructive Reportage as an Important Ingredient for National Security and Integration,’ is coming at a very auspicious time given the enormity of security challenges currently facing the country, and for which the media is a critical partner in the effort to bring about sustainable peace to the country and ultimately protect her national security interest. He said the seminar was compelled by an understanding of the indispensable role of media in conflict management scheme and the need to assist its practitioners to build necessary capacity that would enhance their performance. The military chief said, “As we all know, the relationship between the military and the media is one of the critical dimensions of civil-military relations. This knowledge is underpinned by the fact that both institutions – media and the military- are significantly indispensable in the progressive running of any society. They indeed play different roles and might see things from different point of view but in the matters of national security, peace and progress, they must understand, promote, protect and appreciate each other as partners in progress and co-stakeholders in the overriding task of nation building. “The Defence Headquarters will continue to cherish this relationship with the media and in fact, seek areas to strengthen the partnership and enhance synergy. I have no doubt in my mind that by building bridges of understanding and collapsing the walls of mutual suspicion between the media and the military, the effort and sacrifice to protect our national security by defending the country from external aggression or internal insurrection, will be a lot easier. “The reality of the situation is that our dear country is currently assailed in all fronts by different degrees of crisis ranging from terrorism to separatist agenda, kidnappings, armed banditry, cattle rustling, farmers-herdsmen clashes, pipeline vandalism and so on. These are very potent and sensitive crisis situations that have the capacity to wreck our ship of state, if not handled with utmost care and professionalism that they deserve,” Olonisakin said. The main presenter of a paper and retired military officer, Commodore O.A Oladimeji (rtd) noted that there should be an understanding and mutual trust between the military and the media for the sake of national security, which he said was everybody’s business. “You cannot win a conflict between the media and the military. You cannot hug each other either, but we should be able to come close in the interest of our dear country.”

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