Click for Full Image Size
Listen to article

The Lagos State Governor, Mr.
The Federal Government on Wednesday protested against a documentary on Lagos aired by the British Broadcasting Corporation, which portrayed the city as a slum.

The documentary entitled, 'Welcome to Lagos,' was broadcast on BBC2 in the United Kingdom on April 15.

Nigeria's High Commissioner to the UK, Dr. Dalhatu Tafida, conveyed the protest to the BBC just as Nigerians resident in Chicago, United States, advised the government to do more to change the negative perception of Nigeria in the foreign media.

A protest letter by Tafida was sent to the Controller BBC2, Ms. Janice Hadlow, in Glasgow.

A copy of the letter, which was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria, reads, 'The Nigeria High Commission has watched with dismay and disappointment, the first of the three-part series of your sinister documentary on Lagos which featured on April 15.

'The commission would therefore like to register its strong rejection of this documentary as a deliberate distortion of life in Lagos, and totally unwarranted.'

Tafida also said that the documentary was an attempt to bring Nigeria and its hardworking people to international odium and scorn.

He noted that the High Commission could not comprehend the motives behind the documentary, especially at a time when Nigeria was celebrating the Golden Jubilee of its independence from the British Government.

'Even by your own admission and standards, you have only succeeded in assaulting your viewers with upsetting scenes, that fail to reflect the true and complete story of life in Lagos,' the envoy added.

Tafida, who noted that sites of slums and ghettos were global phenomena, argued that 'even in London, it is not uncommon to see people (not Nigerians) scavenge dustbins in search of food and other valuables.''

Tafida stated that by not airing other aspects of life in the city, the BBC demonstrated a lack of balance and fairness.

He said, 'What is more galling and most disconcerting is your refusal to document the excellent performance of the incumbent governor of the state.

'Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State is widely acknowledged to be doing his utmost to address the challenges in the state.''

Tafida pointed out that for a television station that prides itself of wider coverage and credibility, one expected a greater demonstration of professionalism.

When our correspondent contacted the BBC reporter in Lagos, Mr. Umar Elleman, he said that he had no right to reply to such an enquiry on the documentary.

'The BBC has a policy. A reporter has no right to reply on behalf of the organisation,' he said.

Elleman advised our correspondent to direct the enquiry to his email address so that he could forward it to the London office of the BBC for a reply tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Nigerians in Chicago have urged the government to promote a positive image of Nigeria in the US to change the wrong perception of the nation in foreign media.

They said at a US-Nigeria Business Forum, that the Federal Ministry of Information and Communications needed to embark on a more aggressive promotion of Nigeria's image abroad.

According to them, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism as well the Ministry of Information and Communications should have been part of the business delegation led by the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Senator Jubril Martins-Kuye, to the US.

The President, Continental Africa Chamber of Commerce in the US, Mr. Ademola Dada, said the forum would help to counter the negative perception of Nigeria created by the foreign media.

'We have to promote many face-to-face meetings like this continually since we cannot influence bad news about Nigeria,' Dada said.

The Managing Director of Air Cargo and Travel Agency, Chicago, Dr. Wale Ajifolokun, told NAN that Nigeria had to boost its ego and write its story.

'If you wait for people to write it for you, they will do that from their own perspectives, which may be wrong,'' he said.

Ajifolokun said apart from the infrastructural challenges and insecurity, the bad image of the country had been chasing away investors from Nigeria.

An exporter, Dr. Adetunji Oyedele, called on the government to address the problems of insecurity and kidnapping in the country.

He expressed surprise that the ministries of Information and Communication as well as Tourism and Culture were not part of the delegation.

He lamented that the government had not made concerted effort to sell Nigeria to the whole world, saying that the only time 'they (foreign media) got to know about us is when something bad happens.'

'If you go to the tourism department in the US, Nigeria is not one of the countries which they have information on,'' he said.

A business consultant, Chief David Olupitan, said the forum would go a long way to correct some of the wrong perceptions about Nigeria.

He called on Nigerians to come to the US to promote their products through direct advertisements and business meetings.

'Nobody can speak well of you than yourself. We need to start talking and shouting about ourselves and what we are doing,'' Olupitan said.