COVID-19: FG pledges support for Newspaper Publishers

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The Federal Government has reiterated its determination to assist the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) in addressing the difficulties being experienced by its members due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made this known to State House correspondents after presenting a portrait of the Argungu Fishing Festival to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday.

He disclosed that his ministry had earlier met with the leadership of NPAN over the matter, saying that the association should come forward with a submission on how government could help in addressing its challenges.

According to him, the government has already offered similar relief packages to operators of broadcast industry in the country.

“Government has done a lot for the media, especially the broadcast industry, during this pandemic.

“The first thing we did was to give a waiver of two months payment of license fees to all broadcast houses, between May and July, after which we gave an amnesty as 60% discount or debt forgiveness, for all broadcast houses, except the Pay TVs, and also slashed by 30% the licensing fees because of the COVID-19.

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“I also met with the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, we met virtually and I’m still waiting for them to come and make their submissions.

“Definitely, the government is willing to look into the hardships and the challenges the media is facing and within our means to see how best we can intervene.

“I’m still waiting for the NPAN to come back to us to see what we can do to ameliorate the situation,’’ he said.

Similarly, the minister also reaffirmed government’s readiness to develop the creative industry to create more job opportunities as well as promote peaceful coexistence among the diverse ethno-religious groups in the country.

According to him, President Buhari is particularly interested in the development of the creative industry in view of its potential in boosting the nation economy.

“This government is putting a lot of emphasis and promoting the creative industry, which is tourism, which is hospitality industry, which is the music industry, which is the film industry, which is publishing, which is broadcasting.

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“We’ll continue to support this industry, and we have Mr President’s support. He was quite excited about the portrait because he’s able to see what kind of jobs can be created through this cultural festival,’’ he said.

The Argungu Fishing Festival was held in February this year.

The Argungu Festival, one of the two UNESCO recognised festivals and it’s on the UNESCO list of heritages, made a comeback after almost 10 years of hiatus.

The minister said he was in the Villa to to make a presentation of a portrait of the Argungu Festival to President Buhari.

“The portrait I delivered to Mr President today shows about 30,000 fishermen who all came to participate in the fishing festival this year and the prizes ranging from N10million to N2million and N1million were given to the successful participants. It is whoever comes up with the biggest catch that wins the prize.

“This year’s festival was supported by a lot of sponsors – a lot of agricultural conglomerates supported us and the Kebbi State Government, being the host government, was quite instrumental in the success of the festival,’’ he added.

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