Nigeria government hires U.S. lobby firm for N195m to launder image over handling of Chibok abduction
In order to whitewash its inept handling of the kidnap of over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the terrorist group, Boko Haram, the Goodluck Jonathan administration has awarded a N195 million ($1.2 million) contract to U.S. Public Relations and lobby firm, Levick, to help change “international and local media narrative” surrounding its efforts to rescue the girls, Washington DC based newspaper, The Hill, is reporting.
Boko Haram militants kidnapped the girls, who were writing their final examination, more than 70 days ago from their dormitory at the Government Secondary School, Chibok near Maiduguri.
The Federal Government has come under severe criticism from local and international media for its lethargic handling of the abduction, prompting the ruling party, The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to accuse the opposition of sponsoring a media campaign to discredit the government.
On Wednesday, the U.S. government told Nigerians to hold the government accountable for the failure to rescue the girls more than two months after they were kidnapped.
Details contained in the contract document obtained by The Hill show that the firm will also be “assisting the government’s efforts to mobilize international support in fighting Boko Haram as part of the greater war on terror”.
The firm also promised to assist the government in effecting “real change” in the country.
“A more comprehensive approach using vehicles such as public diplomacy and engaging outside experts to enact real changes is how the advocacy industry is evolving,” Phil Elwood, a Vice President at Levick, told The Hill. “A communications strategy alone is not enough to solve the complex and multifaceted problems facing some of the more controversial nations.”Levick will also be working with Jared Genser, a human rights attorney, who has worked for notable personalities such as South African Nobel Peace Prize winner, Desmond Tutut and Burmese pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi in the past to publicise “President Goodluck Jonathan Administration’s past, present and future priority to foster transparency, democracy and the rule of law throughout Nigeria.”
“For me, after talking to him, the priority for President Jonathan beyond any is finding and bringing home the girls,” said Lanny Davis, an Executive Vice President at Levick.
“There’s got to be a way to amplify what he’s saying and doing to find these girls because over here in America, we’re not hearing much about his effort,” Mr. Davis added.
The contract shows that Levick will be paid N11,625,000.00 ($75,000.00) by month for its effort plus extra cost for advertisements, video production and website development. This will be done through an unnamed state-owned media agency.
The company will also receive additional fee of N3,487,500.00 ($22,500.00) if an associate of the company travels to Nigeria.
An associate of Mr. Genser company, Perseus Strategies, will get, N3,875,000.00 ($25,000.00) per month as retainer.
The hiring of Levick confirms the report by respected PR news website, holmesreport. com, that the government was in market for a PR firm to help bolster its dented image internationally over its far-from-impressive handling of the Chibok abduction.