Onuigbo tasks media professionals on positive agenda setting




I am delighted to be here on your invitation. Right away, let me thankthe Chairman and Executives of the House of Representatives Press Corps for organizing this retreat for the benefit of your hardworking Members. Your theme: “Role of the Media in Mainstreaming ClimateChange Policies,” is apt and germane to the current global conversations on climate change. I, therefore, commend you for this worthy engagement.


The historical development of the Nigerian media and parliament represents a complex interplay of societal, political, and cultural forces. Each has a unique journey of growth, transformation, and adaptation, shaping the nation’s narrative in distinct ways. However, in recent years, a compelling intersection has emerged—a fusion of media and the parliament in pursuit of a common goal: climate action. Thispresentation explores the historical evolution of the Nigerian media andlegislature, and how their convergence has catalyzed a dynamic shifttowards addressing the pressing issue of climate change. It highlights the past, the present, and the collaborative future of these two influential pillars in Nigeria’s socio-political landscape, united in the quest for “mainstreaming climate change actions in line with national development priorities,” for a sustainable and climate-resilient future.


The history of the Nigerian media is a compelling narrative that reflects the nation’s journey from its colonial past to a thriving democraticsociety. From its inception as a tool of colonial administration to its evolution as a powerful platform for the dissemination of information, the Nigerian media has played a pivotal role in shaping the nation’s identity, education, politics, and social fabric. This brief presentation delves into the rich tapestry of the Nigerian media’s historicaldevelopment, examining its growth, challenges, and its profoundimpact on society, culture, and governance. As practicing professionalsin the field, together, let us embark on a journey through time to explore the milestones, challenges, and triumphs that have defined the Nigerian media landscape.

Ikechukwu Nwosu in the book, ‘Polimedia: Media and Politics inNigeria’, explains the genesis of Nigeria’s media engagements. Heposits that the initial form of media employed in Nigeria consisted oftraditional communication methods. These were the communicationchannels utilized by indigenous Nigerians prior to the arrival of colonial explorers on Nigerian shores. These traditional media, known by various names and categorized in multiple ways by contemporaryscholars, displayed unique styles in performing nearly all the functions that modern mass media fulfill today. These functions encompassed information dissemination, education, entertainment, developmental communications like climate action advocacy, and politicalcommunication and mobilization for electoral participation.Commencing with humble


origins, as exemplified by Rev. Henry Townsend’s ‘Iwe Iroyin Yoruba Fun Awon Egba,’ which commenced publication in 1859, and RobertCampbell’s ‘Anglo-African’ in 1863, the Nigerian media has evolvedinto a robust pillar that lends substantial support to both global and local developmental endeavors.

Patrick Ene Okon, author of ‘West Africa and the Europeans since the 15th Century: Essays in Honour of Patience Okwuchi Erim’ wrote onthe theme ‘Historical Development of the Mass Media in Nigeria:From Colonial Era to the Present’. Patrick confirms that Nigeria, a prominent West African nation with a population of nearly 230 million, has been significantly influenced by mass media since the colonial era. These non-personal channels of communication disseminateinformation to a large and diverse audience without interpersonalcontact. There are two major types of mass media: print and broadcast.Print media includes newspapers, magazines, newsletters, billboards, and posters, while broadcast media includes television and radio. Theemergence of the internet has added new media to the list. Thenewspaper press is the oldest mass media type and has played asignificant role in shaping Nigeria’s and many other nations’ histories.

The mass media are expected to fulfill several functions including providing information, instructing the public, promoting individual rights, maintaining economic equilibrium, providing entertainment, and preserving independence. However, the media can also adopt different approaches such as partisan, advocacy,adversary, liberal, independent, or interventionist journalism. Theseapproaches involve taking a stance on issues, crusading for causes, oropposing the government. The media and their personnel have the right to choose between a more active or neutral role in society.


During the colonial era in Nigeria, the mass media was greatly influenced by the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885. This conference onhow to partition Africa without her consent or contributions led toBritain’s conquest of Africa and the subsequent administration of Nigeria as separate Southern and Northern protectorates. The British exerted their political influence through trade, missionaries, and the introduction of modern education. The printing press played a crucialrole in mass-producing print media materials. The first printing press was established in Abeokuta in 1854. This was followed by the establishment of another press by Reverend Hope Masterton Waddellin 1867. Nationalists in Nigeria used newspapers as a powerful tool tofight against colonial rule. Broadcast media was introduced in the UKin 1932 when the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) launchedthe first short-wave broadcasting service in Lagos. In 1956, the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation was incorporated, providing a regulatory framework for broadcasting. The television segment joined this development with the establishment of Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) in 1959.

During the colonial era, the broadcast media was government-owned, focusing on acting as the mouthpiece of government. However, print media, including newspapers owned by nationalists, took partisan, advocacy, activist, and adversary approaches. For instance, the Nigerian Pioneer, owned and edited by Sir Kitoye Ajasa in 1914, wasseen as defending governmental policies. Advocacy media, on the other hand, could achieve both positive and negative ends. Oneexample of this was the publication that allowed its professional position to be used to prosecute personal vendetta and vent grievances. Activist media focused on galvanizing people towards independence and self-government, with John Payne Jackson’s Lagos Weekly Recordbeing the most prominent. The Daily Times then called the NigerianDaily Times, took on the role of recommending nationalist journalists for prosecution, describing Herbert Macaulay as a sedition-monger,exploitation of the poor, and ignorant in the name of patriotism. The


West African Pilot edited by Late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe also made massive contributions towards decolonization.


Nigeria’s governance has been inconsistent since its independence in 1960. From the January 15, 1966 coup d’etat to the death of late General Sanni Abacha in June, 1998, Nigeria was characterized by coups and counter coups and unstable civilian governments. However,Nigeria has experienced nearly a quarter of a century of unbroken democratic dispensation probably due to the mass media’s vigilant roles and contributions. The media has engaged in social, economic, health, and attitudinal change efforts, and has been effective in evoking patriotism and participation in development. It has significantly contributed to the accomplishment of this amazing feat. Under the democratic system in place in Nigeria, the media has demonstrated its ability to persevere against all challenges and take a proactive role in advancing the nation. Radio, television, and newspapers havecontributed significantly to the media’s efforts to improve society. The media has been able to gather news and information better due to the Freedom of Information Act 2011.


The mass media sector is currently experiencing a process known as”functional displacement” as a result of the development of new media. Every time significant new media technologies are introduced, according to Baran & Baran, “they destabilize existing mediaindustries, forcing large-scale and frequently very rapid restructuring.” Additionally, McQuail claims that, “the Internet is gradually replacing many ‘traditional’ mass media functions, such as advertising, news, andinformation.” Today, not only in Nigeria but throughout the world, thisis what has been going on in the media. The capacity of modern mediato be interactive, which entails a two-way information flow through thecomputer between the user and the medium, is the single most remarkable feature of modern media.


The Nigerian Legislature is a critical component of the country’s governing structure and plays a pivotal role in the law-making process. Over the years, the Nigerian legislature has evolved to metamorphose into its current structure, a bicameral legislature, consisting of two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Nigeria Legislature is an essential institution in the country’s democratic system, providing a forum for debate, negotiation, and decision-making on critical issues that affect the nation’s development.


Lucky A. Tongs, Omololu Fagbadebo, and Mojeed Olujinmi in theirwell-researched book “The Legislature in Nigeria’s Presidential Democracy of the Fourth Republic”, informs that the National Assembly, as the principal legislative institution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has had a long history of institutional evolution dating back to June 1862, barely a year after the annexation of Lagos after a 10-year battle of conquests. The history of its growth anddevelopment is, therefore, intimately linked to and incorporates features of the British colonial administrative authority. Thus, thecreation of a crown colony in Lagos also witnessed the birth of the Lagos Legislative Council, which played an important role in colonial governance.


The amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914 formally established a united Nigeria. This did not alter much of the structure of the government beyond the unification of the two supreme courts that had previously operated in Northern and Southern Nigeria. In 1914, Sir Frederick Lord Lugard established the Nigerian Council, and remained in place until 1922 when Sir Hugh Clifford, composedthe Legislative Council. Sir Hugh Clifford dismissed the NigeriaCouncil in 1922 because it lacked legislative or executive authority. There was no legislative or executive authority attached to any council decisions that passed.

Sir Hugh Clifford’s 1922 Constitution which introduced the elective principle and established the Legislative Council remained the same body and was almost static throughout its 24-year history, from 1922 to 1946. The role of the Nigerian legislature remained largely unchanged throughout colonial rule; but the structure and composition of thecentral legislature in Nigeria changed from its inception in 1862 to its independence in 1960, with a mix of officials and nominated unofficial members. It should be stressed that the legislative council under, Sir Lord Lugard lacked legislative or executive power. The introduction of the elective principle under the Clifford Constitution gave three representatives to Lagos and one to the municipal part of Calabar with the extension of adult suffrage in the Southern part of Nigeria. The status of the unicameral legislature changed in 1958 with the establishment of the Senate.

Arthur Richardson’s 1946 constitution was opposed by Nigerian political elites because he stated that they were not politically matureand lacked the resources for self-governance. The opposition led to itseventual withdrawal. John MacPherson who replaced ArthurRichardson, set up a committee to draft a new constitution which wasenacted in 1951. That constitution gave rise to the creation of aunicameral central legislature in 1952 which is known today as the House of Representatives.

The Northern and Western regions had a bicameral legislature in 1946and 1951, respectively. The House of Representatives, (formerly central legislature) functioned from 1952, comprising unofficial members as well as a Council of Ministers. The bicameral legislaturefunctioned from 1960 to 1966, with the upper body (Senate) exercisingparticular powers not shared by the Federal House of Representativesunder the frameworks of the the1960 Independence and 1963Republican Constitutions. The parliamentary system between 1959 and January 15, 1966, adopted the characteristics of a fusion of executive and legislative powers because it was the party with the largest numberof elected members in the parliament that was called upon to form the national government.


The authors further assert that Nigeria’s Legislature in the Fourth Republic is similar to the 3rd Republic legislature in terms of structure. Section 4(1) of the Constitution vested “the legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in a National Assembly for the Federation,which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.”

The bicameral legislature provides more legislators to have a voice in the legislative process. The Senate has 109 members (3 senators representing each of the 36 states, and 1 representing the Federal Capital Territory). The House of Representatives consists of 360 members representing federal constituencies in Nigeria. Section 58 of the Constitution empowers the National Assembly to make law through legislation passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The president has to assent to the bill to become an Act of the National Assembly. This prerogative is what former President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR exercised when he assented to the Climate Change Act2021 in order to lend his administration’s support to climate action.



Rachel Carlson, now regarded as the mother of the environmental movement in 1962 published ‘Silent Spring’ which brought the attention of the world to the negative impacts of the environment. TheUnited Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) defines climate change as a change that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that latest the composition of the global atmosphere and addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods

Climate Change has been variously described as a long-term change in the average weather patterns or conditions that have come to impact the Earth either by making it warmer, wetter, or drier over several decades. The negative effects lead to drought, desertification scrub in sea level, coastal erosion, gully erosion, wildfires, etc. those negative impacts lead to loss of livelihoods, etc.


Section 1 of the 1999 Constitution as amended states, “This Constitution is Supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Section 4(1) states, “The legislative powers of the Federal Republic ofNigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the Federation which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.”

Section 22 provides, “The press, radio, television, and other agencies ofthe mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamentalobjectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.’’

Section 20 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states “The state shall protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wildlife of Nigeria.” This section conveys a significant commitment by the Nigerian government to environmental sustainability and climate action.

This section also provides a legal foundation for citizens and environmental organizations to hold the government accountable for itsenvironmental actions or inaction. If the government fails to fulfill itsduty, individuals or groups may use this section to seek legal remedies. This was clearly established in the case of Centre for Oil Pollution Watch vs. NNPC (2018) Supreme Court of Nigeria. Furthermore, section 34(1) of the Climate Change Act 2021 provides “A person, or private or public entity that acts in a manner that negatively affects efforts towards mitigation and adaptation measures made under this act commits an offence and is liable to a penalty to be determined by theCouncil… A court before which a suit regarding climate change orenvironmental matters is instituted, may make an order to prevent,stop, or discontinue the performance of any act that is harmful to the environment.”


The Nigerian Climate Change Act 2021, represents a significant legislative achievement aimed at addressing the pressing issue of climate change within the country. The act had its origins in the 6th National Assembly but was eventually passed and signed into lawduring the 9th National Assembly. Here is a brief overview of its historical development:

6th National Assembly (2007-2011): The initial discussion and consideration regarding climate change legislation in Nigeria actuallystarted in the 5th Assembly, but it was in the 6th National Assembly thata bill

was sponsored. While there were growing concerns about the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather events andenvironmental degradation, it wasn’t until the 9th Assembly that theefforts materialized and became an Act.

7th National Assembly (2011-2015): Despite some progress during the 6th Assembly, the proposed Climate Change Bill was passed in the 7th National Assembly, but was not assented to by the then President. Goodluck Jonathan GCFR.

8th National Assembly (2015-2019): During the 8th Assembly, there was a renewed focus on climate change and environmental sustainability. Accordingly, I sponsored the Bill on Climate Change in the 8th Assembly. Notwithstanding sustained bureaucratic ambush, thebill passed the House of Representatives and obtained concurrence in the Senate. This legislative cycle marked progress in the consideration of climate change legislation, nonetheless the then President, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR withheld assent citing some reasons for his action.

9th National Assembly (2019-2023): The 9th National Assembly, which took office in June 2019, saw renewed efforts to address climatechange through legislation. The Climate Change Bill was re-sponsored by me, debated, and finally passed, first by the House ofRepresentatives and then by the Senate. The bill was eventually signed into law by the former President of Nigeria, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari GCFR on November 17, 2021, making it the Nigerian Climate Change Act 2021.


The Nigerian Climate Change Act 2021 is a product of years of legislative deliberations, refinement, and debate across several National Assemblies for nearly two decades. Its passage underscores the growing recognition of the importance of addressing climate change and environmental sustainability in Nigeria, aligning the country with global efforts to combat climate change and reduce its environmental impact. Part 1, Sec 1 states, “This Act provides a Framework for achieving low greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), inclusive green growth and sustainable economic development.” This legislative milestone signifies Nigeria’s commitment to climate action and serves as a framework for addressing climate-related challenges within the nation.

After the historic passage of the Nigeria Climate Change Act 2021, as the months passed, a crucial piece of the puzzle remained absent—the inauguration of the National Council on Climate Change.

The Climate Change Act 2021 stipulated the formation of the National Council on Change as the chief custodian of the Act’s implementation. Part II, Sec 3(1) states, “There is established the National Council on Climate Change (in this Act referred to as “The Council’’) which shall be vestd with powers to make policies and decisions on all matters concerning Climate Change in Nigeria.’’

The Council, comprising key stakeholders and government representatives, was entrusted with coordinating and overseeing all climate-related activities in the country. Its roles spanned from policy formulation to ensuring the mainstreaming of climate considerations into various sectors, fostering cooperation at both national and international levels.

Despite the Act being signed into law, there was an inexplicable delayin the establishment of the Council, which pushed the sponsor of the Act to write to the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the then Vice-President of Nigeria, the then Chief of Staff to the Presidentand a few other key functionaries of that government. While theurgency to address climate change grew stronger, progress seemed tobe stymied by bureaucratic hurdles and competing priorities.


In the intricate dance of legislation and advocacy, the passage of theNigerian Climate Change Act of 2021 stands as a powerful testament to the nation’s commitment to environmental sustainability and climate action. This legislative milestone, rooted in Section 20 of the NigerianConstitution, has established a clear obligation for the government toprotect and enhance the environment, safeguard natural resources, and enact policies that promote sustainability.

The journey towards this landmark legislation was arduous, spanning multiple National Assemblies and bridging the intricate worlds oflawmaking and advocacy. The 9th National Assembly, which tookoffice in June, 2019, marked the final act, as the Climate Change Billwas reintroduced, debated, and eventually passed, culminating in its being signed into law by the former President of Nigeria, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari GCFR. This passage illuminated Nigeria’s recognition of the global imperative to combat climate change and mitigate its environmental impacts.

However, as the dust settled on the legislative victory, one essential piece of the puzzle remained unattended—the establishment of the National Council on Climate Change, the custodian of the Act’s implementation. The missing link served as a stark reminder that passing legislation is but the first step in the intricate process of addressing climate change. The council’s formation was critical for coordinated and effective execution of the Act’s provisions, transcending law into action.

During this time, the Nigerian media emerged as a powerful advocatefor the immediate establishment of the Climate Change Council. Recognizing the critical role this body would play in the effective execution of the Act, media outlets across the nation launched vigorous advocacy campaigns. They highlighted the environmental challenges Nigeria faced, from recurrent flooding to desertification and unpredictable weather patterns, emphasizing the impacts onagriculture, water resources, and the livelihoods of millions of Nigerians, forced migration and concomitant insecurity.

The media called attention to the global imperative of climate action,underscoring Nigeria’s commitment to international climate agreementsand the need to fulfill its obligations as a responsible member of the global community. The urgency of climate action, they argued, couldn’t be overstated, given the dire consequences of inaction for the environment and the Nigerian populace.

The call for the establishment of the National Council on Climate Change was not only about compliance with the law Nigeria passed forherself, but also about ensuring a sustainable future for the nation. Itwas a rallying cry for the development of a comprehensive and coordinated approach to tackle climate change, harnessing the expertise of scientists, policymakers, and various stakeholders.

As the media continued to advocate for the council, they emphasized the economic opportunities that could be unlocked through green initiatives, renewable energy, and sustainable practices. They highlighted success stories from other nations that had invested in climate-resilient infrastructure, conservation, climate smart agriculture and clean energy, reaping not only environmental benefits but also economic rewards.

The media also underscored the need for climate education andawareness among the citizenry, believing that a Climate Change Council would facilitate educational outreach and engage the public in climate action in line with section 26 of the Act. This section mandates MDAs responsible for regulating educational curriculum in Nigeria onthe integration of climate change into various disciplines and subjects across all educational levels. After all, addressing climate change isn’tthe responsibility of the government alone; it’s a collective effort that involves every Nigerian. That is precisely why the Council comprises members from Ministries, Departments and Agencies, key government functionaries from all tiers, the private sector, women, youth and people with disabilities.

The fervent advocacy of the media did not go unnoticed. It reached thehighest office in the land, capturing the attention of the President, who recognized the urgency of the situation. With a renewed sense of commitment and urgency, the National Council on Climate Changewas inaugurated by President Buhari, GCFR.

In this call for action, the Nigerian media demonstrated not only theirwatchdog role but also their power as catalysts for change. As the Climate Change Council finally takes shape, it is a testament to the crucial role the media plays in shaping national discourse, driving accountability, and championing the causes that impact the lives of all Nigerians. With the Council’s establishment, Nigeria is now better poised to fulfill its climate commitments, setting the stage for a more sustainable, resilient, and climate-ready future.


I would like to commence this section with an old West African Examinations Council’s A-Level Government examination question, “Editorial opinion is public opinion.” Discuss. 

One of the fundamental roles of the media is ‘agenda setting and leading transformation’.  On the international scene, one unique event that clearly demonstrates, the agenda-setting and transformation role of the media is the scandal involving former United States President, Richard Nixon. The scandal is popularly known as the ‘Watergate Scandal’. The Watergate scandal stands as a quintessential example of the media’s agenda-setting power. Investigative reporting, notably by The Washington Post, brought this political crisis to the forefront of global attention. The media’s role in shaping public discourse and driving discussions about government accountability and transparency became evident. Watergate underscored the media’s capacity to set the agenda, revealing how journalism can profoundly influence the direction of dialogue and the course of history.

The Nigerian media has played this role effectively and I strongly reckon that they would continue in this laudable path. This role has greatly influenced the Nigerian legislature, but more importantly, it has transformed and enhanced awareness about the Climate Change Act and climate action, thereby influencing the recognition of my humble role in the climate change space in Nigeria through the sponsorship of the Nigerian Climate Law 2021

In Nigeria, the agenda-setting role of the Nigerian media played a pivotal role in the exit of two former Senate Presidents and a one-time Speaker of the House of Representatives, Salisu Buhari. Through in- depth investigative reporting and public awareness campaigns, the media exposed issues of misconduct and integrity, placing them at the forefront of public and political discourse. This empowered the public to demand accountability, ultimately resulting in the departures of these high-ranking officials.

As agenda setters, the Nigerian media has continued to lend its voice todevelopmental issues. This noble role led to the recognition of my commitment to climate change and action advocacy. In 2021, the Press Corps of the House of Representatives presented an ‘Award of Excellence’ in recognition of my excellent performance as the Dean of Bills/Most Dedicated Lawmaker of the Year 2021, due to my tenacity and commitment to the passage of the Climate Change Act. This was followed by another award in 2022 by the umbrella body of media practitioners in Nigeria, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Legislative Awards for ‘Excellence on Bills and Motions’. Therecognition also extended to 2023, when the specialized international medium, Order Paper, considered me worthy as one of the fivelegislators to be recognized with VIP Rating on Bills Sponsorship and subsequent induction into the 9th National Assembly Most Valuable Parliamentarian (MVP) Hall of Fame. These awards and recognition have created more awareness and deepened the interest and commitment to issues of climate change and action.

The intersection of the media and the legislature in crafting the Nigerian Climate Change Act of 2021 is a vivid illustration of how collaboration can drive climate action. The legislature, through its law-making powers, laid the legal foundation for action. The media, as the Fourth Estate, took on the roles of advocacy, awareness, and accountability, ensuring that the government met its environmental responsibilities.

As Nigeria charts its course towards a sustainable, climate-resilient future, the media remains a pivotal partner in this transformative journey. Their role extends beyond advocacy; it includes the amplification of awareness about the act, its provisions, and the actions that individuals can take to contribute to climate resilience. They must be vigilant in holding the government accountable for the Act’s full implementation, investigating and reporting on the progress and challenges.


In this collaborative effort between the legislature and the media,Nigeria can accelerate the transition to a more sustainable, climate-resilient future. With the enactment of the Nigerian Climate Change Act of 2021 and the establishment of the National Council on ClimateChange, the nation stands on the cusp of significant change. The media, with their formidable reach and influence, can serve as the catalyst for a climate-conscious society, urging collective action and inspiring hopefor a greener, more resilient future.

As we move forward, the synergy between the media and the legislature is not just essential; it is transformative. It holds the potential to effect profound change, addressing climate change not as a distant challenge but as a collective responsibility. In doing so, Nigeria is poised to stand as a shining example of how a nation can work together to protect the environment, mitigate climate change, and secure a sustainable future for generations to come.

I thank you for your time.