Nigeria minister warns CNN: Journalists putting country in danger

Image copyright AFP Image caption Three years on the toll gates remain closed after protests, but development in Lekki is moving at a snail’s pace A top Nigerian government minister has warned that CNN…

Nigeria minister warns CNN: Journalists putting country in danger

Image copyright AFP Image caption Three years on the toll gates remain closed after protests, but development in Lekki is moving at a snail’s pace

A top Nigerian government minister has warned that CNN reporter is “putting the country in danger” with her “insensate and thoughtless” reports on the country’s political crisis.

It followed a report about plans to build toll gates around the Lekki Peninsula.

The road project is backed by President Muhammadu Buhari, who is running for re-election.

On Monday, the government warned the cable network and the Daily Times newspaper to retract the report or face sanctions.

No legal action has been taken against CNN for the article but the government says “none of the allegations are at all accurate”.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that freedom of information is given proper attention to avoid being placed in danger,” said Sam Oyovbaire, the Minister of Information and Culture.

The report was the latest to allege corruption in Nigeria following series of stories by Nigeria’s Channels TV and foreign media.

In its latest story, CNN’s Jake Tapper claims Nigeria is “watching its democracy die in public”, quoting Amaechi Shuaibu of the Nigeria section of Transparency International.

Mr Shuaibu said corruption was so bad in Nigeria that the truth about it was being suppressed.

He specifically referred to charges that $1.4bn in Nigerian oil revenue and almost $5bn in Nigeria’s account with the World Bank was illegally withheld and later released.

According to the government, the allegations in the report are baseless and the network’s bias toward President Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) was obvious.

“If CNN speaks for the opposition, CNN should stop speaking for the opposition,” said the minister.

“CNN has presented itself as the spokesperson of the opposition and we want CNN to know that our country is a hundred per cent one-party state.”

Mr Oyovbaire also said “the statement in the article is based on publications by media houses who have chosen to be partisan in the face of the new facts brought by the Africa Progress Panel, the Nigeria Economic Summit Group and the official report of the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative”.

He also accused the newspapers of failing to verify the facts of the story, saying they failed to acknowledge facts which contradict the false allegation.

“On this very page, you publish a media report on the matter,” he said in the note.

“Your newspaper has also published another media report on the matter on its front page.

“I won’t hesitate to order legal action against your media house,” the Minister warned.

Image copyright AFP Image caption A road construction project to connect Port Harcourt to Lagos cost the Nigeria government $5bn. Critics say money was illegally stolen by senior government officials

The ministry also attached a front page report on the new criticism by newspapers of the suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen as chairman of the National Judicial Council by the president.

The suspensions has been criticised for infringing on the independence of the judiciary and alleges corruption and judicial abuses.

The president had previously suspended the judges but they were reinstated after the Supreme Court ruled against the suspension.

The editor-in-chief of Daily Times newspaper, Maisamari Nakai, said in an article published in the newspaper that Mr Oyovbaire’s warning to CNN was unnecessary and could constitute “blackmail and threat”.

Mr Nakai said CNN had not corroborated the allegations in the report but had relied on information from the state-owned Voice of Nigeria, whose listeners and viewers – particularly in the South-West – live in an atmosphere of tension.

Government has promised to show the President and all Nigerians that corruption has no place in Nigeria.

Image copyright The Africa Group Image caption The African Progress Panel report recommends that civil servants should not get any party tickets for political offices until corruption is addressed

In a recent Africa Progress Panel report, published in February, Nigeria had been found to be one of the countries with the worst corruption in Africa.

“Corruption, impunity and insecurity are the key major obstacles to economic and social development in Nigeria,” the report said.

The committee is made up of eminent international leaders, economists and analysts.

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