Nigeria’s security agencies may have commenced investigations into what has been termed unwholesome media reports on the recent crisis in Plateau State, which are said to be capable of breeding retaliatory moves by the people.
A top security officer told PRNigeria in confidence that with the alarming development that could culminate in maiming, killing and destruction of properties, the agencies plan to launch all-inclusive investigations to unravel the remote causes of the seeming unabated ethno-religious conflict and the misleading reportage and connection between both.
The development is coming just as the agencies are searching for some missing persons who were abducted in Barkin Ladi while travelling from Gindiri to Jos last week Sunday.
The missing persons include Salima Adamu, an NCE holder; Mohammed Sha’aban, SSCE holder; Abdulrazak Isa, a final year student in the University of Maiduguri; and Sama’ila Isa, a final year student at School of Health technology, Bauchi.
The security source pointed out that a preliminary investigation indicated that most of the media reports came from a single channel, which was later shared by a Jos-based blogger on a WhatsApp Forum for selected journalists.
The source said: “The news report of the alleged interview with Mallam Danladi Ciroma, a representative of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria in Jos, which was published by dozens of media houses has security implications that can cause confusion and further escalate the conflict in the polity.
“Since there is confusion over the authenticity of the said interview and the purported sources, investigators are determined to obtain the call logs and records ranging from text messages to pictures, IP addresses and cell towers used from the mobile phone providers.”
It was learnt that apart from the reporter of The Nation Newspaper in Jos, Yusuf Aminu, who was contacted and spoken to by Ciroma, no journalist had the privilege of being the source of the stories carried by several media in the country.
It was gathered that Ciroma actually called The Nation reporter with a strange number on Sunday afternoon and intimated him of the killings overnight and adduced reasons why Berom people kept hiding suspected cattle rustlers who occasionally attack Fulani herdsmen despite efforts by both the government and the security agencies to checkmate insecurity in the affected areas.
According to the finding, the reporter never shared his exclusive report with anyone until after its publication in The Nation newspaper.
The report was later shared by a blogger on the WhatsApp group where several media houses lifted and published it subsequently without providing proper attribution.
It was further gathered that the following day, Ciroma called and expressed gratitude to The Nation reporter for the publication, only to turn back a few hours later in the evening to complain that he was misrepresented.
While The Nation accepted to retract some portions of the report, the reporter objected to the demand for an apology.
Apart from the Premium Times that apologised and sacked its Jos-based reporter, Andrew Ajijah, for unethical behaviour of lying to the editor on his source, other media houses that published the report have refused to retract or apologise for the publication as they believe in the integrity of the channel that syndicated the release.
The main offence of the Premium Times reporter, however, was that he lied by claiming that the Miyetti Allah representative gave him the interview, whereas he never met the man or spoke to him.
Though the Premium Times had sanctioned its reporter, it was discovered that the online newspaper is not the main source of the story and that the reported retaliatory attacks had taken place before the publication on the platform and other media.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Forum of Spokespersons of Security and Response Agencies, Brigadier General John Agim, has appealed to the media to be conscious of their reportage in respect to security and other conflicts in the country.
Speaking to PRNigeria after the monthly meeting of the forum in Abuja, Agim, who is the Director Defence Information, said social responsibility, objectivity and patriotism should be the media’s watchword against compromising national security.
He said: “The media need to do more in their professional assignments, especially in authentication and verification of their reportage from their various sources.
“They are supposed to be agenda setters, responsible, forthright, apart from being the fourth estate of the realm.
“Conflict is complex in nature and its reportage should be handled with caution to avoid the generation and escalation.”
The FOSSRA meeting, which was hosted by the Police Headquarters, was attended by spokespersons from military, security, intelligence and response agencies.