Gloria Ogine Two reporters from TheMiddleBelt Reporters, Linus Egwu and Gloria Ogine were part of the just concluded two days training dubbed, “Credible Elections and Democratic Governance Media Using Fact-checking and FOIA to Combat Information Disorder” held  on the 6th and 7th, March 2024 in Kaduna State The capacity-building workshop facilitated by the International Press Centre Lagos exposed participants to how false information spreads, the importance of fact-checking, and the use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in seeking relevant information from Ministries, Departments, and Agencies. Linus Egwu, our associate editor who was among the participants explained that the opportunity exposed him to new ways of checking every piece of information spread through the media space, he explained that the training was an opportunity that further exposed him to the importance of FOIA. He pledged that the training would further improve his work as a journalist while he expressed his commitment to stepping down the training at TheMiddleBelt Reporters newsroom for a better knowledge of all reporters. In his welcome address, Lanre Arogundade, the Executive Director of IPC emphasized that the use of fact-checking and FoiA are integral in the strengthening of Nigerian democracy, hence the need for the workshop. He said, “On behalf of the International Press Centre, in Lagos, Nigeria, I extend a warm welcome to this two-day capacity-building event focused on combating information disorder in democratic governance reporting using fact-checking tools and Freedom of Information tools.”  “This workshop is a component of the  collaborative efforts between IPC and the Centre for Media and Society CEMESO under component 4 of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGNII) project.” He continued.  Lanre appreciated the participants and urged them to put to use the knowledge obtained from the training.  While expressing gratitude, some of which the Participants posted on social media, Fortune Zulaiha Danjuma, a reporter with Kano Focus explained that she found the training course interesting and important to her work, she explained that the training has opened her mind to double-checking every information. Fortune Abang, a reporter with the News Agency of Nigeria, explained that the use of fact-checking is very important in the era of easy accessibility of information, he further noted the training will improve his work, and curbing information disorder will be part of his work going forward.       

By Manasseh Mbachii Benue State chef, Victor Tartenger has embarked on a remarkable 135-hour culinary journey to set a new Guinness World Record for the longest cooking marathon by a single individual. Victor who is popularly known as Naira-Victor began his cook-a-thon on Tuesday, February  27, 2024, in Makurdi the Benue State Capital, and is scheduled to conclude on Sunday, March 3rd, 2024 The record-breaking attempt by the Benue Born Chef is coming after Alan Fisher, an Irish restaurant owner, and chef based in Japan, broke the cooking marathon by an astonishing 119 hours and 57 minutes to displace Nigerian Hilda Baci’s who held the record from May 2023 till November 2023  Chef Victor, who hails from the Food Basket of the Nation, aims to push the boundaries of culinary endurance with the intention to share 70% of the food cooked during his days in the kitchen with the Internally Displaced Camps within the State. Confirming the record-breaking attempt Guinness World Records indicated that Victor Tartenger received approval from the GWR on December 17, 2023, to set a new cooking marathon record in Makurdi Benue State of Nigeria to cook for about 120 hours plus to dethrone the award-winning Chef Irish Alan Fisher. Nigerians eagerly awaited the outcome, as hundreds of supporters were seen at Tiger Bar in Makurdi Benue State to witness Naira-Victor’s extraordinary cooking marathon in setting a new Guinness World Record. The recent attempt by Victor is among several others that have attempted to break the record after Hilda Baci did in May 2023.

By: Manasseh Mbachii  On the 15th of November, 2010, IDS Limited, a construction company, was contracted to design and to construct the Cancer Screening Centre for the Benue State Government for an initial contract sum of N111 Million naira and later revised to N138 Million naira due to delay by the government in honouring contract agreement.  The project which was to last for a duration of 12 months was supervised by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development. The contractor told this reporter that  a payment of 77 million naira, representing 70% mobilisation fund, was released between November 15, 2010 to March 2012 under the administration of Senator Gabriel Suswam.  However, the construction of the Cancer  Screening Centre was not completed due to delay in the payment of outstanding fees as agreed by the contractor and the Benue State Government.  In November, 2015 the wife of immediate past Benue State Governor, Mrs. Eunice Ortom announced that her husband, Samuel Ortom would complete the Cancer Screening Centre Project initiated by his predecessor. Mrs Ortom made this disclosure while speaking at the 2015 breast cancer awareness campaign held at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi. On the 16th of July, 2016, Mr Tahav Agerzua, who was at the time, Special Adviser to Mr Ortom on Media and ICT announced that the Ortom administration had released N80 million for the completion of the project.  Investigation by this reporter however revealed that out of the N80 million reported to have been released, only N34 million was paid to the contractor, IDS Limited. Details of the payment made available to this reporter shows that the contractor received N12 million naira on the 26 October, 2016, and N22 million naira on the 14th of June, 2019.  Terver Akase, media aide to former governor Samuel Ortom could not provide answers when questioned on the remaining N46 million released by the Ortom administration, after previously directing this reporter to contact the project contractor for details. The cancer project which was aimed at reducing medical tourism embarked upon yearly by citizens of the state has over the years received budgetary allocation from the Benue state government. For instance, in 2021 and 2022 the state budget, about N12 million was approved for the completion of the cancer project. Findings by this reporter however revealed that the approved N12 million naira was not released to the contractor. When this reporter visited Pauline Maka Women Development Centre, Jonah Jang Crescent, High Level Makurdi, where the cancer project is located, it was observed that the cancer centre is completed but not in use for the purpose it was built. This reporter observed that the project is now housing Family Worship Centre, a church owned by Pastor Sarah Omakwu. It was also observed that the cancer project is in a dilapidated state, having some of its windows fallen off and electrical appliances disconnected. When contacted, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Joy Adole said the project has not been handed over to the ministry. “The cancer centre has not been handed over to us. We have drawn the attention of the current administration to the project. The contractor however said the government is still owing him. And, until his outstanding balance is paid before handing over the project to the ministry,” she said.  When the contractor, Architect James Ugo was contacted, he explained he was contracted to design and to construct the Cancer Screening Centre for the Benue State Government under the Ministry of Women Affairs & Social Development, on 15th November 2010.  He said, the contract was awarded for N111 Million, and revised to N138 Million naira due to delay by the government in honouring the contract agreement.  “Cancer Screening Centre is the project I was involved in from the inception. I was requested by the former First Lady, Yemisi Suswam to design and to construct. The initial contract sum was N111 million naira, and revised contract sum is N138 million naira. My outstanding balance from the contract sum is N15 million naira, and outstanding claims from the last time I calculated is N18 million naira due to delay in honouring valuation certificates as per contract agreement. In total, the government is owning me N33 million naira,” he said, adding that the balance keeps increasing. Mr James further revealed that he leased the cancer centre to Family Worship Centre, Makurdi Branch adding that the government should determine and honour outstanding claims amounting to N33 million as per agreement.  “Since dilapidation has set in due to non-use of the facility, the government should prepare a dilapidation schedule and re-award the contract as a renovation contract to us or any other Contractor. However, we give our word that, if paid our outstanding claims, we can go ahead and renovate the building at no additional cost to the government. When the government is ready, I will ask the people to leave, repaint, wash and clean. If there is anything that has fallen anywhere, I will just touch it and handover the keys,” he concluded. How Woman Dies in Benue From Cancer Sickness Mr James who lost his wife, Margaret Ugo, to endometrial cancer in 2021, said he never knew his wife would be a victim of cancer after he was commissioned to execute a cancer project adding that if cancer screening centre was in operation, it would have saved his wife’s life. “My wife, Margaret Ugo died of endometrial cancer in 2021, so I know the importance of cancer screening centre. Before this project was commissioned, there was a cancer awareness organised at Aminu Isa Kontagora. I never knew that I was going to be a victim of cancer after I was commissioned to execute a cancer project. The project that would have saved my wife’s life. By the time she was diagnosed with cancer, she was already bleeding,” he said. Cancer has remained top of the list of diseases that are indiscriminately reducing the welfare and wellness of persons across the world, particularly, in developing countries like Nigeria. Statistics provided by the World Health Organisation’s 2020 report shows that cancer tops the list of killer diseases with nearly 10 million deaths. Nigeria has one of the highest cancer mortality rates in the world, with approximately four out of five cases resulting in death, according to the Global Cancer Observatory. A cancer patient who did not want her name mentioned said it took months before she was diagnosed with cancer. She said there was no special cancer screening centre, so it was difficult to diagnose. “My husband never knew what was wrong with me. We moved from one hospital to another until I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in Abuja. I am now receiving treatment at Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi.”  He said. Chief Press Secretary to the Benue State Government, Tersoo Kula, said he would get back to this reporter on what the current government is doing to complete the centre. “We shall get back to you,” Mr Kula said but he hasn’t as of press time.   This report was produced under the UDEME project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID). Edited by Kemi Busari.

OUR REPORTERS

Jairus Awo

Jairus Awo is a Nigeiran Muiltimedia public interest journalist. He believes in the power of the media as a catalyst to development and societal growth. You can tip him an idea on [email protected]

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