Obstacles for investigative Journalism for practitioners in Nigeria A personal experience for discussions on the way forward

Obstacles for investigative Journalism for practitioners in Nigeriahttp://salkida ahmad


A personal experience for discussions on the way forward


I was posted to Maiduguri, a cosmopolitan city in North-Eastern Nigeria, bordering Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republics to report for a national newspaper. I was full of enthusiasms
for the job.


I did my first article on late Muhammad Yusuf, the leader of the ‘Boko Haram’ Muslim sect in northern Nigeria on the 23rd of July, 2006 a time when the sect was
virtually unknown to many Nigerians.


On the 28th of February 2009, I wrote yet another article about the sect, alerting of its total disregard for civil behaviour. The report in question warned that to
disregard the simmering cauldron “smells like rebellion...and it will be
irresponsible of any authority to wait for the occurrence of violence before it
acts in the face of impending threat to law and order.”


I then wrote a couple of articles on the Boko Haram sect (with a hint on the strategy of unwholesome violence and threat to order and security posed to the general public) in June
2009 before the crisis that started on the 26th of July 2009, which
led to the death of thousands of people, an incidence that would have been
prevented if the security agencies had paid attention.


Typical of investigative journalism practice in a developing society, my reports on the Boko Haram debacle placed me on a dangerous spotlight particularly with the government in Borno state. I reported both sides right from the beginning. As the war raged on, I was the only
reporter to secure an interview with Muhammad Yusuf because I was virtually the
only journalist known to the sect on account of my previous reports.


On day 3 of the crisis, which was Tuesday 29 July, 2009 I informed the Police of my intention to embark on a reporting trip to the Boko Haram enclave in Maiduguri. Shortly before my trip to the sect’s
enclave, the state government officials practically declared war against me and
my organization. I was arrested, framed and accused of fraternizing with Boko
Haram, which was reported in some media houses.


The arrest prompted my media organisation to issue the following press release:


“Alarm over our Maiduguri reporter”


Daily Trust, July 31st 2009


The management of Media Trust Limited, publishers of the Daily Trust, Weekly Trust, Sunday Trust and Aminiya newspapers, is alarmed at the detention of one of its
reporters in Maiduguri, Ahmad Salkida, by the police authorities there.


His ordeal began on Tuesday July 29 when alongside other journalists covering the sect violence there, he went to the Borno State Government House and the Chief Security
Officer there ordered his detention without any clear reason.


Our enquiries at the government house and the Borno police headquarters have met with claims that he is being held for his own safety because of allegations that the Boko
Haram members may be after him even as we earlier heard that he is suspected of
having sympathies for the sect.


It appears that our reporter’s ordeal may be linked to the fact that he is the first reporter to do a story several months ago about the sect and its potential for civil
unrest. His recent interviews with the leader of the sect, Malam Mohammed
Yusuf, which was published in Sunday Trust on July 26 and Daily Trust on July
27, clearly show that Ahmad Salkida is nothing more than a journalist who tries
to do his best on the biggest story on his beat.


Media Trust Limited hereby calls for his immediate release as there is no basis for his continued detention.


Signed


Mannir Dan-Ali


Editor-in-Chief



In fact the initial order was for me to be executed in the same manner Muhammad Yusuf and hundreds of some of his unarmed followers were killed at the Police
headquarters where I was also held for nearly five days. During the arrest I
was assaulted by mobile Police men right in the presence of many journalists, but
the media downplayed the physical attack meted out on me instead, it was widely
reported that I was held for my own safety.



Ironically, indeed, I would have been executed were it not for an intervention by a Police undercover agent with the sect who affirmed that I was indeed a journalist, and
to some extent, repeated plea instead of demand for my release, by the Nigerian
Union of Journalist.



Before my arrest, I made headlines with my interviews, pictures and narratives on the violence on both sides. I think the government became uncomfortable with my
exploits that I may reveal certain intrigues especially perceived complicity.



Unfortunately today, the people in north- eastern Nigeria live in a cloud of fear because of the insurgent attacks repeatedly launched by the sect. several policemen, religious and
traditional leaders have fell to the bullets of these vicious group in recent
weeks.



Many commentators believed that dialogue, which is embedded in good governance, would have prevented the crisis in the first place. Apparently, good governance
was (and is still) lacking in my typical settlement and the crisis took place
anyway, and still rages on till date, which vindicated my earlier interest to
openly discuss even the most nasty and distasteful topics in the media.



Sadly, some of us that may still have useful piece of advice on the way forward in resolving some of these conflicts that oftentimes lead to deaths of thousands of persons
and properties worth millions of US Dollars in northern Nigeria cannot talk for
fear of arrest or even murder.



My fears and that of many peace loving people in West Africa is that, the sect members are scattered within Nigeria and mostly in the troubled Republic of Chad and Niger.
The obvious danger is that these sect members that are threatening the peace of
the entire northern parts of Nigeria could easily fall as fodders to any
al-Qaida advances, again to the likely dismay and shame of Nigeria.


Posted by Ahmad Salkida

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