The publisher of one of the leading online news media in Nigeria, the SaharaReporter, has expressed dismay over claims by the army authority that the outfit is a sympathiser of the outlawed terror group, the Boko Haram.
Describing a claim by Brigadier Olaleye Lajide of the Nigerian Army, which accused the outfit of supporting the Islamist terrorist group after the website, leaked a petition accusing top military officers of corruption and incompetence as “spurious lavish claim,” the management of the renowned website also regretted that the military officer referred to the SaharaReporters is a “faceless” organisation.
In a statement on Sunday, the outfit noted that such claim “is one in a series of smear campaigns launched against it and its operators in recent times,” noting that it had foreknowledge that “various arms of the Nigerian state were preparing a coordinated attack on our website and its chief operators,” and had reported it.
“Last month, in the service of an agenda to discredit our website, the same set of people had claimed that the founder and administrator of SaharaReporters was bribed with a $5 million mansion in California. The designers of this infantile propaganda had hoped to fool the unwary with that tall tale. Lacking intelligence and bereft of respect for their audience, those who concocted the allegation claimed that the mansion existed in a town in California, but could provide no address. It took little a time for the allegation to fizzle as the accusers failed to provide something as basic as an address to enable curious readers to make further inquiries.
“Shortly after, the same group of hirelings claimed that a former Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro, the subject of several investigative reports by SaharaReporters, asserted that he had arrested the publisher of SaharaReporters for rape during the latter’s time as a student at the University of Lagos.
“Again, the allegation fizzled away, being a figment of the imagination of the smear artists. As in the case of the fake mansion without an address, the accusers could also not produce the date of the arrest, the charge sheet, the identity of the alleged victim, the location of the “rape” incident, or the date of prosecution.
“Over the last week, the Nigerian presidency has mobilised a significant amount of funds to their hired hands engaged in a new round of these smear campaigns. The purpose is to tarnish the reputation of SaharaReporters, a website that has remained steadfast in documenting the ineptitude and incompetence of the Goodluck Jonathan administration,” the organisation alleged.
It added that the Nigerian military hierarchy has led the latest smear campaign after it exposed the existence of a petition by an army officer who detailed the reasons the Nigerian army has not been able to defeat Boko Haram.
“That a military that has proved incapable of dislodging a ragtag group of sectarian terrorists would devote resources to discredit a website speaks volumes about the rut and degradation of various sectors of the Nigerian state—and exposes the confused, petty nature of the Nigerian regime.
“SaharaReporters decided to publish the leaked petition in order to help Nigerians to understand why countless numbers of their fellows are sent to their ultimately deaths at the hands of Boko Haram insurgents. It is an open secret that Nigerian troops are inadequately equipped and ill motivated. That explains why Nigerian troops have not been able to stop Boko Haram’s murderous campaigns against defenceless civilians, especially in the northeast of Nigeria.
“Till date, the army has not denied the factual content of the petition Instead, the army has engaged in subterfuge aimed at diverting attention from the substance of the petition, which stated clearly how the army could defeat Boko Haram militants within a matter of weeks,” it noted.
The SaharaReporters therefore concluded that by accusing it of supporting Boko Haram, “the top commanders of the army accused in the petition of sabotaging the war against Boko Haram hope to turn attention away from their corruption and incompetence.”