Midway into the deadlines for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), prognosis for Nigeria is dire. Sterling One Foundation, a non-governmental organisation which identified effective media coverage as a key to accelerating the goals, is training journalists across Nigeria on better reportage of climate change stories. Seun Akioye participated
When Olapeju Ibekwe, the Chief Executive Officer of Sterling One Foundation gave her opening speech at her organisation’s capacity training for journalists, she was very clear about the intentions and goals of her organisation for the media executives.
“We are prioritising, galvanising partnership with the media towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SGD),”she said. This for many of the journalists present, who were drawn from both mainstream and specialised media outfits, was a novelty. But she was not done yet.
“We cannot act like others and see the media as a tool to an end, we see the media as partners and we should get there together. As stakeholders, we should be intentional about meeting the challenge, it is not just about capacity training, it is for us to be more intentional in transforming the country,” Ibekwe said.
The two-day National Sustainability Media Training has a fitting theme: Achieving the SDGs: Strengthening Media Capacity for Effective Reportage also has other corporate organisations joining in like Microsoft, Oando Foundation, Coca-Cola and Sterling Bank. While about 30 journalists were present for the physical training at Microsoft office in Lagos, about 50 others joined virtually from the northeast.
Climate Change is Journalistic emergency
Ibekwe’s words sounded like a war cry and it resonated with the media. Though one of the regions that is at high-risk of climate impact according to the Climate Risk Index published by the German Watch Organisation, Nigeria is far behind in climate action mitigation and adaptation strategies.
The country’s northeast and northwest regions, because of its low adaptive capacities, low sensitivity and high exposure are the most vulnerable regions and ironically, these regions produce more than half of the food supplies in the country.
While Nigeria is not lacking in policies towards climate change mitigation and adaptation, it is however deficient in implementation as flooding continues to displace thousands of people yearly, destroying property and throwing more people into poverty. Also, in the northern region, where climate change has impoverished farmers causing migration into the southern part of the country and in the process igniting conflict and insecurity.
“The objective of this training,” Ibekwe said, “is to engender high-quality journalist practice that holds government accountable to Agenda 2030. We want to acquaint journalists with SDG targets and generate compelling stories and reports that will galvanise local actions for sustainable development in Nigeria.”
But Sterling One Foundation was not alone in achieving these objectives, it also partnered with Microsoft and other seasoned journalists including, Victor Emeruwa, Executive Director, Sun Media Development Foundation, Fidelis Mbah, senior journalist with Aljazeera Television Network, Seun Akioye, Executive Director, Development Reporters and Akinwale Ojetimi, the CEO of Amatropics Newslive.
Building Partnerships, Strengthening Capacities
Apart from capacity building for media, Sterling One Foundation said it wanted to establish a community of practice that would include journalists and other stakeholders. The community will be tasked with the role of creating awareness on climate change and most importantly, setting agenda for policy makers and ensuring climate action targets are met, this aside the traditional media role.
Emeruwa was emphatic in his presentation titled: ‘Role of Media in Awareness Creation’ when he said the role of the media is awareness creation and generation of solution driven stories, media is also to perform a watchdog role to government while ensuring targets on the SDGs are met. Emeruwa also courted the controversial, which perhaps reveals his hard line posture when he said media must be advocates for a social good and this choice is easily made for climate change.
Akioye agreed with him on the role of the media when he spoke about ‘Effective Reporting of Climate Change’. He however lamented that climate change reporting in Nigeria is poor due to some editorial limitations including; lack of in-depth knowledge about climate change, the attitude of editors and media owners, climate change is technical, it is not the easiest beat to report and inherent danger in environment reporting.
But he also identified the needs of journalist of they must do a better job which includes; access to data and subject experts, training, funding for investigations, support from editors etc.
On the second day of the training, while speaking on climate adaptation plans and reportage, Emeruwa emphasised the need for journalists to establish partnerships with scientific societies which will guarantee access to data and experts when writing. He said climate adaptation should be practiced by all and must start at young age, “Adaptation should start from an early age, for instance, teach your children how to put off all the water taps and electricity when not in use. We need to start the training in behavioural change early enough to help their minds shift and adapt to climate change,” he said.
Akioye believes the way the media portrays climate change adaptation would influence behaviour change in policy makers and the people. “The way we (the media) portray climate change and climate adaptation will greatly influence how people, stakeholders and policy makers will respond. There is a connection between climate adaptation and public interest and the framing of stories by media is crucial,” he said.
In his presentation, Akinwale Ojetimi queried why there are no climate change desks in many newsrooms across the country and called for more investments in climate change in Nigeria.
The corporate partners had their say about their efforts in climate sustainability and adaptation. Nwamaka Onyemelukwe, Director, Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability at Coca-Cola, responding to allegations that her company isn’t doing enough in climate sustainability said: “Our Company has a robust sustainability programme in place. Our PET bottles are the most recycled products in Nigeria and 33 percent of our products are still in environment friendly glass bottles.
“We appreciate the fact that you want your products on the go but if you are eating in a restaurant, ask for the product in glass bottles so we can save the environment.”
Onyemelukwe also called for value re-orientation towards recycling and clean energy. But this is what Sterling Bank thrives in according to Dele Faseemo, Group Head, Oil and Gas, Power and Renewable Energy at the bank. “We advocate for policy that will aid the conversion of renewable energy in Nigeria,” Faseemo said. In this stead, the bank has moved its loan portfolio for energy conversion projects from N500m to N10billion.
The bank said it is ready to walk its talk therefore, its official headquarters is powered by renewable energy sources. “This is the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa,” Faseemo said with pride. “We have also covered 50 percent of our branch locations with either 100 percent renewable energy or hybrid.”
Sterling says it has also deployed electric vehicle charging stations as part of its thinking ahead projections. “We are always looking for partnership in healthcare, education, renewable energy and transportation,” Faseemo said.
But Sterling One Foundation has had a sterling footprint in climate change sustainability. In 2023, the foundation has impacted over 280 teachers and empowered over 2000 students. It has worked with over 20 communities on climate sustainability projects, directly empowered over 3000 women while 20,000 others are indirect beneficiaries.
While its messages has reached 61 countries, it has secured 30 strong partners and granted 100 scholarships. Solomon Okonkwo, the Programme Lead at Sterling One Foundation said it has planted over 10,000 nutritious trees in 20 states.
“The Sterling One Foundation Agro Forestry Programme for Climate Action Project (SACAP) was launched in November 2022 and our target is to plant 10 million trees by 2030. We have been to 24 schools where we assign a tree to the students and establish the Young Foresters Club.
“We also have a national clean-up exercise alongside the beach clean-up where we build the capacity of women and youths to build environmental friendly toilets and sustain the beach clean-up exercise in their communities.”
The journalists who participated in the event said it has been a call to action for them to rev up their climate reporting and join the community of practice. Muhammad Gambo who works with Yobe state television said he will now be intentional about following up on climate stories until success is achieved.
“The training session provided an insightful and comprehensive understanding of intricate dynamics surrounding climate change communication. Facilitators demonstrated profound knowledge of climate science while the training also skilfully navigated the challenges of communicating climate-related issues to diverse audiences,” Anwar Mohammed from WTV in Yobe submitted.
Dayo Emmanuel, the news editor at National Wire and a climate advocate said the training gave him new ideas to climate change reporting. “Journalists are exposed to trainings and one may think they know what to do. This training is useful because the facilitators came with fresh ideas and participants will do well to experiment some of the tips if not all and the society will be better for their efforts.”
Others like Ibrahim Mustapha from KanemPress Digital Hub pledged to apply the best practices to their reporting. “Going forward, we are the climate change champions and Kanempress will take the campaign to every nook and cranny of northeast Nigeria.”