The Media, NIA and the Truth

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Nothing buttresses the belief, that a greater aspect of journalism in Nigeria is compromised, than the brouhaha over the appointment, in January, of a substantive Director-General of the NIA (DG-NIA).

On January 13, 2018 at exactly 2.38pm, I received an SMS on my MTN line from then Acting DG-NIA, Ambassador Mohammed Dauda, “pls call me,” the message read. I don’t remember calling because I had already spoken to his Representative who sent me a similar text message at 1.31pm the same day. The representative solicited my support to fight in support of the cause of the ousted Acting DG-NIA who was “unfairly removed” from office.

“I have sent you the details on WhatsApp and we want you to propagate it in your media and the social media. There are tools for the job for you (akwai kayan aiki),” he said in Hausa. Realizing that I had just been offered money to do my job as journalist, I became suspicious. I told him I did not need any ‘tools for the job’ as I had my Laptop.

The so-called details the representative said he sent to me were the allegations that the newly appointed substantive DG-NIA is not a Nigerian but a Chadian; that he retired from the NIA as Assistant Director; that he failed promotion exam; and that his wife is Moroccan, and so he isn’t fit to head the NIA.

The representative also disclosed to me that “we wanted someone who has good command of English to talk on ‘Burgami Radio Program’ and I recommended you to Ambassador; he wants to see you.”

I told him I would come.

The first thing I did after my telephone conversation with the representative is what every Journalist should have done. I tapped my sources, who should know, to fact check the allegations. To my surprise, I learned that the whole allegations were false; I then waited to see the ousted Acting DG at night.

I met the ousted Acting DG at a Maitama residence at about 9.00pm same day he sent for me. The representative met me outside and ushered me in. Sitting in the Livingroom were the ousted Acting DG and two other men. After pleasantries, he led me to the dining room where we closed the door and sat at the dining table. I commiserated with him for not being confirmed as substantive DG and we went straight to the issue at hand.

The first thing the ousted Acting DG told me was that one Magajin Garin Sokoto had arranged for me to speak on Vision FM 92.1 Radio. Knowing all the allegations where false, I asked what he wanted to achieve through a media war. “I want to speak to you as a younger brother not as a Journalist. Whatever you want to do, if it won’t bring you back to that seat, then please forget it,” I counseled him. He said he knew he can’t get the position back. Then I asked what his objective for a media war was? “To mess him (the new substantive DG) up,” he answered me. I told him it wasn’t worth it. “I am sure you must have pulled your strings to be confirmed. So, you must have done your best and Allah had the final say. If Allah didn’t will you to be confirmed, you should accept it in good faith. Don’t appear to be troublesome as there is always tomorrow. You could be DG tomorrow, or even NSA,” I further counseled him. He retorted that he felt betrayed by the new DG who as SA to the President, he (ousted DG) had relied so much on him for his confirmation. I reiterated that he should still accept it as fate and give maximum cooperation to the new DG because “you may still need him in the future,” I said. “I will never need anything from him,” he replied.

We parted that night on the note that he would not personally be involved in any media war. He said even the story of the cash ($44million) “stolen” from the NIA vault didn’t come from him. At that time I didn’t understand this statement until I returned home and checked my WhatsApp messages and read these four messages he had earlier that evening sent to me:

“[1/13, 7:46 PM] Moh Dauda: Monday Morning.

[1/13, 7:46 PM] Moh Dauda: English : Burgami program 8am to 9am on vision fm 92.1 and Hausa: nigeria a yau 1pm to 2pm on vision fm 92.1

“[1/13, 7:53 PM] Moh Dauda: Forwarded:
“The new DG of NIA does not merit that office because he was retired as a deputy director for his failure to pass promotion exams three times. His wife is a Moroccan. How can you appoint a person whose wife is a foreigner to man a foreign intelligence outfit of Nigeria? Above all, DG SSS, Lawan Daura is from Katsina State, Head of DIA is from Kano and now the new DG of NIA is from the same Katsina State. THE MD of Federal Mortgage Bank, Nexim Bank, Nigeria Ports Authourity, FERMA, SMEADEN, etc are all from Katsina State, these positions could have been spread to Kano, Niger, Zamfara and other states to reflect national character or key states that massively voted for APC . Nepotism and mediocrity under Buhari is becoming too much. How can you remove Babachir and replace him with his tribesman, Boss Mustafa, but, remove Ayo Oke, a Yoruba man and replace him with Hausa man from Katsina. This is injustice and we are not known to behave this way in Nigeria. It is clear that Buhari is not in charge, but Abba Kyari, Mamman Daura and Babagana Kingibe, the Prime Minister of Nigeria. Come November this year, these are among the issues the opposition will use as practical example against the APC.
CONCERNED ORIGINS & MEMBERS OF APC IN KEBBI, SOKOTO & ZAMFARA STATES.

“[1/13, 7:53 PM] Moh Dauda: There is a twist in the issue as $44,285,996 was moved from NIA Vaults in a black Agency Billion van at 6 am on Friday 12th January 2018. very reliable sources reported that it headed straight to the Villa. The early morning transfer was done in the glaring presence of cleaners who normally report early to tidy the office and helpless security guards who were asked to help in loading the money on the truck. it was the topic of general discussion at the Agency today. this happened just a day after the New DG took over. This development apparently confirmed the fear that the former Ag. DGNIA was actually removed because of his resistance to the idea of stealing the money.”

By about 5.00am January 14, 2018, when I logged on to online news, some online media outlets had carried stories of the allegations against the new substantive DG and nepotism against the president. Throughout the week, the stories got bolder, the radio discussions got hotter, the social media caught fire on the denigration of the NIA and the lies against the new substantive DG. No media, not even the big media outlets in the traditional media deemed it right to do what is right — investigate the allegations. It became free for all while I marveled at how people believe so much lies and how the media has failed Nigerians. I also realized that I had also failed as a journalist for not doing the right thing — report the truth — but chose to keep quiet because I didn’t want to hurt the ousted Acting DG being like family to me.

While I continued to struggle with my conscience, watching a decent citizen deliberately maligned and destroyed for nothing, the NIA being brought to disrepute, and Nigerians being deliberately misled, I had the opportunity of meeting the new substantive DG-NIA at his Asokoro residence around 9pm, on the night of February 24, 2018.

The meeting was about what could have been an explosive ‘Exclusive Story’ one of my sources brought to us to publish in The Politico. It was about a budding plan, being hatched abroad by some Nigerians, to rig the 2019 Presidential Election. Being a strong proponent of ‘Patriotic Journalism,’ I felt it wasn’t for publication. Journalism should bring good to society and not fame and riches to publishers. If there is a way to correct an ill in society, particularly this one that bordered on national security, it is best to effect the correction without recourse to publication.

After we had concluded on the 2019 Election matter, we discussed the misrepresentation and outright lies being churned out, about his appointment, on all media platforms in the country. In the spirit of public disclosure, I must mention here that the discussion was over tea, pineapple, water melon and Fura served by his wife who looks anything but Moroccan. I left him after 11pm feeling guiltier at my failure as a Journalist on the whole matter. Here was a man, who is every inch a gentleman, being destroyed by a media that ignored its responsibilities for whatever reason; and here was I, who knew the truth, but failed to bring it to the public for family-related reasons. Before I reached home that night, I decided I must write.

My decision was premised, firstly, on the need to come clean, redeem my failure and tell the truth; and secondly, as a caution to the Nigerian media in an era when crimes such as terrorism, hard drugs, and diseases etc. defy national borders. Just as the media should not falsely publish to denigrate our military who maintain our territorial integrity, we should also not falsely publish to denigrate the NIA that safeguards our national interests globally. The Politico then launched an investigation to get the facts independent of the ousted Acting DG and the new substantive DG.

The Politico investigations revealed that contrary to reports that Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to the President and Babagana Kingibe were instrumental to the appointment of the new substantive DG, the appointment was solely the president’s. No one had an ounce of input into making Mr. Ahmed Rufa’i Abubakar the DG-NIA. Unfortunately, Kingibe in particular, was so much maligned that campaign posters claiming he’s running for president flooded Abuja and nearby Nassarawa State.

Secondly, the investigations also revealed, with documentary evidence, that the new DG retired in 2013 as Deputy Director, not Assistant Director. In fact, the Agency issued a retirement notice to him on November 12, 2012 informing him, as Deputy Director, that he would retire in three months having reached the age of 60 years. Also, the new DG passed the promotion exam to Director in 2011 and despite over 10 years of continuous ‘Outstanding’ score in annual performance evaluations, was not promoted for what the promotion brief termed highly recommended for promotion but “no vacancy.”

Thirdly, his wife is from Katsina and had passed security vetting when her husband joined the NIA. Also, the new DG is a full-blooded Nigerian from Katsina, having only lived in Chad where he attended primary school, but was brought back home for his secondary and university education. He also passed a thorough security vetting before employment.

Other investigations revealed that the $44million so-called ‘exhibit’ that was “stolen,” is not truly an exhibit as claimed by the media, but monies belonging to the NIA for some of its operations which have been ongoing even after the Ambassador Ayo Oke scandal. The monies are now domiciled in NIA’s account with the CBN on the directive of the new DG. A committee appointed on the movement of the money out of the NIA vault, found the ousted Acting DG guilty of acting illegally a day after he was official relieved of his acting position by moving the money out of agency premises in concert with the National Security Adviser (NSA), General Mohammed Monguno (rtd) and claiming it was stolen. This alone, is a dismissible offence, according to NIA rules, as are three others out of the eight offences the acting DG was found guilty of.

The Nigerian media is in fact silent over all these facts and not even the big media outlets bothered about getting to the bottom of this. If the media had cared about reporting facts, if I didn’t fail to go public with the facts at the time I knew them, Nigerians wouldn’t have been misled; a gentleman who has served (and is still serving) his country diligently, wouldn’t have been made to bear so much anguish; and an agency that has worked quietly for the benefit of Nigerians, wouldn’t have been unfairly focused on and subjected to ridicule.

The media outlets that unprofessionally rehashed those allegations and published classified NIA documents have contributed, as much as Ambassador Dauda, to his dismissal from service. If they had fact-checked his allegations, they wouldn’t have promoted them through publication. Consequently, there wouldn’t have been grounds for his dismissal. These media outlets should indirectly bear the responsibility for the punishment meted out to him and seek for leniency on his behalf for those indiscretions.