Some youth on Thursday staged a protest at the Media Trust Limited office, publishers of the Trust titles in Abuja over alleged negative reporting of the Nigerian military.
The youth, under the aegis of ‘Citizens In Defence of Integrity of Nigerian Military numbering about 30 arrived the company’s head office at about 12 noon bearing placards and chanting ‘never again!’ at the gate which lasted for 30 minutes.
“Daily Trust Newspaper, Stop Your Hostility Towards Nigeria Military,” and “Stop Bad Press Against Our Gallant Military,” some of the placards and banners read.
Defense spokesman Major Gen. Chris Olukolade had issued a statement on Wednesday saying some segment of the society including the media were downplaying the successes of the Nigeria military against the insurgents.
The military authorities had on 6th June, 2014, embarked on clampdown of newspapers including Daily Trust, disrupting and seizing thousands of their copies across the country, citing security reasons.
Gen Olukolade had said the raid “followed intelligence report indicating movement of materials with grave security implications across the country using the channel of newsprint related consignments.”
One of the leaders of the protesters most of whom were young on Thursday, Yunusa Yusuf in a written speech said: “We have noted with disgust and total indignation, the continued hostility and anti-Nigerian military reports and commentary of your newspaper.”
He added that: “we are appalled to note that your newspaper has consistently reported the activities of our military in a manner that neither represent the truth nor promote the course of our national security.
“Our visit here today is essentially to add our voice of caution to those whose stock in trade is to wilfully denigrate and destroy the only indispensable and unifying institution in our dear country.”
Yusuf specifically pointed out that the lead story of Daily Trust on Wednesday March 4, 2015 titled: “Nigeria stalls onslaught against Boko Haram-Chad,” was done in bad taste.
He however could not give specific reasons why they felt the story was inaccurate.
The said story which was originally published by Reuters News Agency and carried by Daily Trust quoted Chadian military as saying the Nigerian authorities stopped them from advancing into Nigeria’s territory to fight off the Boko Haram militants.
Although, the spokesperson of the protesting youth denied being sponsored by anyone, Daily Trust observed they left in two buses, one of them belonging to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Youth Vanguard, FCT chapter.
The protesters also came along with Defence Correspondents mostly from government owned media organizations, including Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and Blue Print Newspaper.
The protesters proceeded to picket the Abuja offices of Leadership and The Punch newspapers.
Our reporters observed that an unmarked vehicle with armed military and police personnel hid a street away from Media Trust apparently providing cover to the protesters. They were joined by the security men in the buses and headed off.
When our reporter called one of the telephone numbers on the statement read by the group, the receiver, one Chidi Omeje dissociated himself from the group, saying “who are those people? I do not know about the protest. Well somebody must have cloned my number.”
The other phone number on text of the speech was not going through when our reporter called.
Protester cries out for payment
Lawal Mohammed, one of the protesters decried the non-payment of for his services by those who hired him for the job.
Mohammed, who says he is a suya (grilled meat) seller in Zone 1 Abuja, returned to Daily Trust hours after his fellow protesters left, saying he was left high and dry after being promised N1000 by a group that met him at Eden Park, a relaxation centre close to the newspaper house, from where he was hired.
Speaking in Hausa language, Mohammed, 27, who hails from Daura Katsina State said “they came to the park around 11 this morning and told me to follow them to some places across the city, coaching us on what to chant when we approach those places.”
He admitted he had no idea of the purpose of the protest or the intent of the organisers but had to follow them because of the promise of payment after the rally, adding that he had participated several times in political rallies for a fee.
“They came with banners and this paper (brandishing a placard) and they shared it amongst us. They came with others in two buses and they approached people around the park so as to boost their numbers and I followed them seeing I could make a fast buck.
“Even though they promised us money, it was when we had picketed this company and were heading to the other one in Central Area (Punch) that they told us that our fee was N1000 for each person. But after the business was concluded and they brought us back, I couldn’t get my money,” he said.
According to him, “I entered the wrong bus after the end of the protest because protesters in the bus I entered had already been paid and I didn’t know. They just brought me and dump me where they picked me.”
He added that he thereafter went to Aliyu, another butcher hired for the protest to enquire about the payment process. Aliyu confirmed that he was given N10, 000 for 10 people “but I was not among them.”
“Aliyu suggested that I go to one Rabiu Dan Daura who works in Jabi garage to lodge my complaint, because he (Daura) seemed to know some of the organisers of the event. As soon as I leave here, I will go to the garage to see if I can get any amount even if it is not up to N1000.”
On June 30, 2014, the Defense spokesman Gen Olukolade had visited the headquarters of Media Trust Ltd where he appealed for understanding by the media in reporting the military onslaught against the insurgents.
He had said: “Our appeal is let's preserve the military from political assessment. The achievement of the military in the terror war is being reversed by the scale of criticism, denigration and demystification of the military.”
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