Daily Trust newspaper has come under fire recently from some Nigerians over its reportage of recent happenings in the country. Is the newspaper being dubious or diligent?
Criticism and outright threats have attended Daily Trust reports on the killing of Northerners in the South East in the legacy and the social media, deliberately casting doubts on the credibility of the reports.
Although none of those criticising the reports has so far proven that the wanton killing of Fulani herders and other people from the North, including their women and children, did not happen, most of the media outlets appear committed to put Daily Trust on the defensive.
With the exception of few newspapers, it appears there is a "consensus" by the media not to report the orgy of killings in the South East, reduce the significance of such reports, and dismiss any alternative narrative as propaganda or an attempt to instigate attack on Southerners living in the North.
Records, however, show that few newspapers report happenings around the country irrespective of religious, regional and tribal colourations like the Daily Trust, or perform the basic journalistic duty of holding leaders to account.
The latest diatribe against Daily Trust is based on a report regarding the killing of 19 herders at Ukpomachi village of Awkuzu in Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State. The killing of the herders was confirmed by the Anambra State Police Command and the state chapter of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN).
Reporters of some national dailies were privy to the press conference by MACBAN and the confirmation by the police; but by sheer coincidence or deliberate censorship, only few serious newspapers reported the incident.
Part of the Daily Trust report published on Monday, April 26, 2021, reads: "Gunmen have ambushed Ukpomachi village, Awkuzu, in Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State, killing 19 persons suspected to be herders, while also destroying their property worth millions of naira.
"The Chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), South East Zone, Alhaji Gidado Sidikki, who resides in Anambra State, also confirmed the killing of 23 cows by the attackers.
"The incident, according to him, happened at 2.am on Monday at Modiyam Umaru Camp where herdsmen have been living for many years. He further said children were not spared by the assailants.
"'One and two-year-old children whose parents were killed in the attack are currently receiving treatment at an undisclosed hospital in the state,' Sidikki stated.
"He, however, appealed to his members not to react but allow the police and other security agencies to do their work to unravel the circumstances surrounding the attacks.
"Confirming the incident in a statement, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the Anambra State Command, DSP Ikenga Tochukwu, said investigation had commenced to unravel the circumstances surrounding the incident.
"Meanwhile, a crack team of police operatives of the command, led by an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), have visited the scene and conducted an on-the-spot assessment of the incident.
"The attack resulted in the death of nine persons (whose identities are yet unknown), with injuries on some others, as well as destruction of buildings and livestock."
Three days after the report by Daily Trust and few other newspapers, the killings were soon overtaken by other events, but not in the hearts and minds of the families of the victims and some pressure groups, who felt the matter must be kept in the front burner to push those that matter to act and stop the mindless carnage.
Sadly, the commentaries that trailed the story, especially on social media, were to portray Daily Trust in a bad light and cast a doubt on the authenticity of the killing of the herders.
But, a gory video of the attack which showed how the 19 herders were killed and their remains butchered by the assailants was trending on social media.
Based on that, Daily Trust conducted a fact-check and verified the authenticity of the video to be that of the 19 slain herders.
Therefore, Daily Trust was left with no option than to report the apparent "graveyard silence" by those who matter, including the outrage by other Fulani groups, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG).
The reservations were captured in our front page story of Thursday, April 29, 2021, captioned: "Outrage over viral video of 19 herders killed in Anambra," which was also trailed by criticism on social media.
Reacting to the videos, a Twitter user, Bash Farhan, wrote: "The video of the remains of 19 Fulani women and children massacred in Anambra State is the worst thing that anyone can see today."
Another user, F.S. Yusuf, said, "No killing is permissible irrespective of tribe or religion. I utterly condemn the killing of that peaceful Fulani family in Igbariam. It is high time we take action against such acts very seriously. The polity is already heated."
Commenting on the development, NEF's spokesperson, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said, "Those who target Northerners in the Southern part of the country are playing a dangerous game. It is not a game anybody can confidently say he can control, but it is getting to a point where even we cannot find enough reason to justify why people should continue to exercise restraint."
Dr Baba-Ahmed further said while it was tempting to ask Fulani and Hausa people who were being attacked and harassed almost on daily basis to leave the Southern part of the country and return home, "We would not do that for many reasons. One is that we believe they have a right to stay there and they have a right to security and to live in peace, and we believe that the Nigerian state has a duty to protect them.
"And if we ask them to leave, we will be playing into the hands of the people who believe that they can engage in ethnic cleansing; pick which ethnic group, which religion they do not want to see and they will weaken the foundations of the Nigerian state, and so we are reluctant to do that."
For the umpteenth time, the comments on social and mainstream media that trailed the story discredited the story in totality instead of providing "facts" to fault its genuineness.
A WhatsApp message shared in countless groups reads: "Dear all, read the Daily Trust report of the killing of 19 herdsmen in Anambra on Sunday by IPOB. It is surprising that only Daily Trust gets this news.
"Almost all the newspapers have reporters operating in Anambra. Recently, constant reports of killing of Northerners in Igboland have occupied the front page of this paper. It is significant that no other paper carries such news. The Daily Trust report is not attributed to its resident reporter. Does Daily Trust want ethnic retaliation over false news?"
However, the fact is that our report on the incident was sent by our reporter in Anambra State who attended the press briefing by Miyetti Allah, alongside reporters of other newspapers who chose not to report the incident at all for reasons best known to them.
While attacking Daily Trust on the same issue, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, feigned ignorance about the killings in Anambra and took to his Twitter handle: @MaziNnamdiKanu and wrote, "My attention has been drawn to series of FALSE news of killing of herders in Biafraland published by Daily Trust (@daily_trust), the latest being today, April 29.
"The intention is to instigate a GENOCIDE against Biafrans in the North, but it shall FAIL. This is not 1967."
Kanu's comment thereafter attracted direct and subtle threats against Daily Trust.
A commentator with the handle: @smallki09794817, wrote, "Hausa people and all the indigenous tribes from the North should not allow Fulani to use them against the South. Fulani should carry their own cross, let's see who will laugh last."
Another commentator, Blessed Joe Nwachineke, with the Twitter handle: @BNwachineke, wrote, "Looking for an opportunity to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it.
"These DEMONS from Sahel are just looking for a way to cause problems, but let them bear in mind that this is 2021, and not 1967. Any nonsense will be faced with nonsensical nonsense #EndNigeriaNow."
@WarriorsAbia wrote, "We know their gimmicks. For any Biafran killed up North for no reason, there will be consequences; I pity Biafrans who are still investing up North though."
In an interview on page 27 of the Guardian of Saturday, May 1, 2021 titled "Those pushing for ethnic conflagration must be called to order," a former President of Igbo think-tank group, Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, made a passing remark on how the Daily Trust is reporting issues in the South East.
He said, "The campaign to demonise Ndigbo is so coordinated that a particular national newspaper has repeatedly published on its front page that Northerners are being killed in the South East. No government agency has rebuked it to date."
Concern on Daily Trust reporting events in the South has even attracted official warning.
In a letter dated April 19, 2021, the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) referred to our report captioned: "Worries as killings of Northerners persist in Imo." The letter signed by Stella Jibrin on behalf of the executive secretary of the council alleged that Daily Trust "painted a picture of orchestrated alleged killing of Northerners in Imo State by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)."
The council also made reference to another letter it wrote to Daily Trust titled: "Consideration for National Interest and Social Responsibility," based on our story titled: "IPOB kills 13 northern traders in Enugu, Imo in one week."
While the NPC is right on the need for "all hands to be on deck to ensure peaceful coexistence and foster unity among various groups," this onerous task cannot be achieved when some media outlets ignore the violence by well-known secessionist in an attempt to cause sectarian mayhem.