2021 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals Nigerians trust NGOs, businesses more

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer Report has revealed that out of the four institutions of government, business, media, and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Nigerians trust civil society organizations the most, with businesses coming second.

On the other hand, most Nigerians expressed distrust for the media and returned the lowest trust quotient in the world for government with 24%.

Conversely, Nigerians overwhelmingly placed the highest Trust in their ‘employers’, and in the process revealed their expectations for CEOs and business leaders to be more pro-active in speaking out on societal issues (92%) and driving positive change (79%) rather than wait for government.

These revelations, amongst others, were contained in the 21st Edelman Trust Barometer Survey Report on Nigeria unveiled virtually by Edelman and its Exclusive Nigerian Affiliate, Chain Reactions Nigeria, in Lagos on Tuesday, 23 February 2021.

The Edelman Trust Barometer is the annual trust and credibility survey by Edelman, the largest Public Relations firm in the world. It is the world’s most robust exploration on Trust, in society’s long-standing institutions of business, government, NGOs, and media.

Presenting the 2021 Nigeria findings with the theme: ‘Pandemic’s Ongoing Impact on Trust’, CEO of Edelman Africa, Jordan Rittenberry, noted that Nigerians are looking to civil society organizations and businesses to assist the government in uplifting communities and driving positive change.

The report also showed that Nigerians fear losing their jobs more than they fear coronavirus, with a high degree of vaccine hesitancy revealed as only 26% expressed readiness to take the COVID-19 vaccine when made available.

A diverse panel critically analyzed the implications of the survey report after Rittenberry’s presentation.

They include Senior Special Assistant on Media to President Muhammadu Buhari in the Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande; Director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre; Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi; veteran journalist, Dr. Reuben Abati; and Senior Director, Global Government Relations for Africa at Procter & Gamble, Temitope Iluyemi. Veteran broadcast journalist, Anike-Ade Funke Treasure, moderated.

Akande suspected that the distrust of government is a result of Nigerians’ natural cynicism and the testy historical relationship between government and citizens.

“Distrust in government is not peculiar to Nigeria. However, the government does have the responsibility to up its game in communication, to demonstrate responsibility and responsiveness,” Akande said, citing the acclaimed National Social Intervention Programmes, and the COVID-19 Survival Fund as some evidence of the Muhammadu Buhari administration’s unprecedented responsiveness to Nigerians.

On NGO’s emergence as the most trusted institution, Akiode-Afolabi noted that “we have always been connected to the people as civil society organizations. And during the lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 last year, we mobilized against a number of issues and demanded accountability. Some organizations stood in place of government; in terms of palliatives, in terms of support. They went to areas the government couldn’t reach.”

Commenting on how institutions can further build trust, Iluyemi identified inter-sectoral partnerships and communication: “We believe in over-communicating. P&G adopted a two-way communication strategy, we held town halls and bottom-top meetings to provide credible information to our employees and take feedbacks. We also leveraged the use of data for our marketing strategies, and this translated into deeper connections with staff and customers.”

Also speaking on the Report’s finding that Nigerians distrust the media, Dr Abati explained that the twin problems of ownership and unfavorable conditions of service combine to make journalists themselves victims to various agendas.

“Absolute objectivity is utopian. How do you expect journalists to earn trust? It is really embarrassing these days with journalists denied salaries for maybe 10 or 12 months, while some blogs are becoming more authoritative than the mainstream media. And you find the mainstream media, even relying on blogs due to a lack of resources.”

Major takeaways from the session include the government’s responsibility to do more in the area of communicating with Nigerians to improve on Trust, while the four institutions should explore more partnership possibilities that will help government address societal problems.

For Rittenberry, “businesses need to keep their employees and customers safe and informed through the pandemic and beyond, to further shore up trust”

Thanking the panelists and participants at the end of the discussion, the Managing Director/Chief Strategist of Chain Reactions, Israel Jaiye Opayemi, said the company was ready to work with the four institutions to further develop their asset of Trust.

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