By Abba Gana
Pen merchants are unchallengeable kings in their respective domains. They operate like emperors; determining and twisting everything as it suits their evil designs. Its common to see them invent their own rules, redefine existing conventions separate from universally accepted norms and ethics of the profession.
They operate like soldiers by turning newsrooms into battle grounds against perceived enemies. Once contracted writers pencil down a word, it is to destroy a target or a stubborn client who has refused to “play ball;” a Nigerian phrasal euphemism for bribe or kick-backs.
SaharaReporters has really distinguished itself in the field of junk journalism. It publishes anything even where the verified contents or facts of the story resists or contradicts their demonic intentions. Commercialized reporters depend heavily on assumptions and sensationalism in reportage. Many of these folks have a comfortable tent in the online news portal, SaharaReporters. Every day, they come to work with knives and swords to strike any hapless person.
For some days now, an interview, the National Security Adviser (NSA) Major Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd) granted the BBC Hausa Service generated national uproar. The top security chief falsely accused the immediate past Service Chiefs of diverting the $1 billion funds the FGN sourced from Excess Crude Account (ECA) in 2018, which he claimed was allegedly released to them for the purchase of weapons to fight terrorism and other insecurities in the country.
Within 24 hours, Gen. Monguno repudiated himself denying feverishly and vehemently of making such allegations against the past Service Chiefs. Monguno was enraged that he was misquoted or misunderstood. Yet, he had the option of claiming it as a slip of tongue. But he avoided this angle. Therefore, he replayed what he thought was his actual words at the BBC interview.
But torrents of counter-reactions to Gen. Monguno’s disease of verbal diarrhea sprouted. The Presidency was blunt that it is not possible to even contemplate embezzlement of $1billion released for the purchase of arms to fight insecurities under his watch.
Frankly, it made no enduring sense that President Muhammadu Buhari who is still prosecuting Monguno’s predecessor, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) and others for diverting and embezzling $2.1 billion for the purchase of arms under the Jonathan Presidency would consent to the same act of sleaze under his Presidency. It didn’t blend with reality.
Even in President Buhari’s worse elements, it is bizarre to think he would have allowed the former Service Chiefs to embezzle $1billion for weapons procurement. And thereafter, prominent individuals and organizations publicly condemned Gen. Monguno insensitivity and naked display of incompetence on the fluid allegation.
But Nigerians have an entrenched mentality of destruction. Following the recant by Monguno, others felt he was cajoled into refuting himself. It was expected that those with such thoughts would have compelled Gen. Monguno to release details of his allegations or leak out the details to them secretly. But they were hesitant.
However, as the king of fake news in Nigeria, SaharaReporters’s publication of March 16, 2021, dazzled Nigerians with this sensational headline “REVEALED: How $1billion For Ammunition Under Buhari Was Secretly Released, Shared Among Buratai, Other Ex-Military Chiefs.” It was a captivating and attractive caption, except that the contents only derided the reputation of the medium.
On the periphery, many Nigerians thought the online publication has stumbled over amazing and exceptional facts on the “missing” $1billion arms procurement fund released to the ex-Service Chiefs under the Buhari Presidency. One expected a full disclosure of how the immediate past Service Chiefs cornered $1billion arms procurement fund silently.
Disappointingly though, a perusal of the publication showed an embarrassing emptiness and devoid of any modicum of detail. It misplaced common facts; but it was heavily embellished with fake fabrications and poorly aligned to screaming sensationalism by the constructors of the tales.
For instance, SaharaReporters wrote in the publication; “… the $1billion release, which was greeted with widespread criticisms when President Buhari announced so in April 2018, was approved by the National Assembly and shared with the military arms in 2019 without public knowledge to avoid more criticisms.” How could the money have been shared to the three arms of the Nigerian Military, in 2019?
Facts in public domain obstinately contracts the publication’s claim that the $496 million released to the Nigerian Airforce on the Super Tucano fighter jets was in 2019. Even Mr. President’s letter of anticipatory approval to the National Assembly was dated April 13, 2018; by which time, the $496 million was already paid directly into the treasury of the US Government. So, which Nigerian Airforce received the Super Tucano fighter jets funds; is it the Airforce operated by SaharaReporters?
Again, SaharaReporters defamed its corporate image by writing that the “…(former)Service chiefs received the funds but they deliberately chose not to make public knowledge of it.” What bemusing logic? How could the ex-Service Chiefs publicize funds which did not pass through their offices? This is journalist hooliganism!
And since SaharaReporters is famed for shamelessness and mercantile journalism; it quoted an unattributed source in the Defence Headquarters as saying; “The military chiefs were asked not to state to the public how the money was spent or when it was received. But it came and the three arms of the military got their shares.”
Are the news reporters in SaharaReporters telling the world that it does not know the basic channels of official communication? Is SaharaReporters expecting that the ex-Service Chiefs would have usurped the functions of the Defence spokesman? This is the personal damage blackmailing journalism does to its apostles; it keeps you blind to basic facts and trends.
SaharaReporters disgracefully pleasured in cooking and circulating imaginary figures just to force the impression that the former Service Chiefs received the $1 billion for the purchase of weapons. So, it baselessly wrote; “Also, about $381million was released to the army and navy for the purchase of critical equipment.” Why did its unnamed source in the Defence headquarters fail to disclose how the funds were released to the Army and the Navy? This vagueness only ascribes to sensational journalism.
Furthermore, the online medium narrated “… sources in the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (said) that about $900million had since been released to the military.” So, it is no longer the whole $1 billion it initially canvassed as released to the three arms of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN)? Therefore, the conjectures as replayed by SaharaReporters only to reinforce a feeble and baseless impression that the ex-Service Chiefs allegedly embezzled weapons procurement fund.
Whilst Monguno has failed to tarnish the reputation of the past Service Chiefs by his unnecessary mouthing, SaharaReporters has refused to give up on its agenda to destroy Nigeria. The online medium has chosen to launch a war against the former Service Chiefs without any weapons to support its cause. It’s a display of confounding insanity.
Once more and for clarity’s sake, no former Service Chief got any monies to buy warfare equipment and this fact can still be verified. Their briefs in office does not include procurement of weapons. It is strictly the statutory responsibility of the Ministry of Defence. How and why, they are dragged into the picture is perplexing.
SaharaReporters, its masters and acolytes who hate the ex- Service Chiefs should look elsewhere to fart the hate and hide their faces in shame thereafter. Should these same people hurling meaningless darts at the former Service Chiefs be probed today, they will come out worse than their predecessor in the Dasukigate. Even tales by moonlight in the days of yore, had more entertaining value than the trash churned out by SaharaReporters and its co-conspirators.
Gana wrote this piece from Maitama, Abuja.