Still On The N1.2 million NSC “Facebook Scandal”

In Chude Jideonwo’s piece on the N1.2 million Facebook scandal at the Nigerian National Sports Commission (NSC), his opening reference to Gani Fawehinmi’s legal fees (to explain the NSC saga) is similar to an exercise that compares apples and oranges. Gani charged fees for his man-hours, like every professional does, but whoever opened a Facebook account for the NSC for that sum simply exploited a system already built on corruption, rent-seeking and unreasonable expenses. I will explain.

Chude tried to explain how the sum could have been quoted for a 12-month period that would include salaries, Facebook ads and other social media services. That’s another miss. The man who has the final say on the budget in question said the controversial N1.2 million was to “OPEN” a Facebook page. A quick visit to the Facebook page reveals that there was no management service in addition to the page creation. Let’s even ignore the fact that the website link on the Facebook page takes you on a wild goose chase. I suggest you shouldn’t visit which should be the ministry’s website. You did? Well, I could have warned you that it is blank – to say the least.

I’ll return to the Facebook page controversy by pointing out that the last activity on the page, before the N1.2 million story broke, was at 7:34am on January 13. The next post after that was at 3:49pm on January 31, to share the link to a story on their defence of the controversial N1.2 million budget item. It took 18 days and a controversy to resume updates!

And on the subject of N100,000 as possible salary over a 12-month period, one will have to ask about the existing budget for salaries. The ministry has an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) unit and a N6.8 billion budget for “personnel cost and over head such as; the salary for the staff of the commission, salaries and wages, maintenance service, training of staff locally and internationally, grants and contributions, consulting and professional service, utilities and others.

As a social media consultant who has worked with government agencies, among others, I think this is not only about the NSC, but also about the need for consultants to sincerely empower clients instead of exploiting them by taking advantage of our rent-seeking culture in Nigeria. Why milk a client dry on one project when you can deliver value on this one and attract more projects from the same client – and others they will refer you to?

In his defence of the N1.2 million largesse, the head of the NSC ICT unit, Mr. Pepple, said:

“N1.2 million was not spent on opening a Facebook account. Everybody knows that opening a Facebook account is free. It was opened free of charge. These were management expenses that came up during the All Africa Games camping exercise. The former minister Suleiman ordered that a Facebook crew follow him around to the six sites. 12 staff were sent to the six camp sites. The minister had a Facebook account already. This money was approved and covered feeding expenses, accommodation and other expenses. It was also from the same funds that we bought internet modems to carry out the work. This is even outside of digital cameras and other items that were used. I insist that not one dime was used to open a Facebook account. People should get their facts straight.”

This actually calls for more questions! What happened to the former Facebook account? Why make another provision for a new account? If it was the minister’s personal account, why spend the ministry’s money to update it? What’s the URL so we can check the updates and videos? Why do you need 12 (spell that as TWELVE) people to update a Facebook account? What happened to the existing budgetary allocation for travel? And other questions…

Government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) must embrace a holistic approach in their use of social media (and ICT tools generally), instead of jumping at every new tool. It used to be other tools, but now we have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, GooglePlus and much more. Government MDAs who have a knee-jerk reaction to the adoption of social media will end up creating different budget lines for Facebook pages, Twitter handles, LinkedIn profiles, GooglePlus accounts and even a dedicated Blackberry PIN for, say, Football League Goal Alerts. And there’s another challenge here for government: instead of consuming, can you please create an environment that will allow young Nigerians to CREATE? Nothing stops an empowered young staff of the NSC from working with the smart ladies and gentlemen at the Co-creation Hub in Lagos to co-create an innovative and globally relevant application or platform for sports.

Social Media is new, and it will be exploited for a while. Throw in a government that is built on wasteful expenditure and you will get a lot of surprises. Let’s just hope that future budget analysis of the Youth, Aviation and Power ministries will not reveal million-naira budgets dedicated to “hosting tweet-meets.”

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