I have deliberately kept this story for a day such as this when the governorship election will be close and the candidate of Babangida Aliyu, Niger State Governor, Umar Nasko will be contesting. Call it a report to witch hunt Aliyu and Nasko and you won’t be wrong. Call it a revelation of the dying minutes to cause bad blood for the duo and you will also not be wrong.
For months I have waited for this moment when Nigerians especially those from Niger State will get to know that as they go to the polls; any attempt to vote in Nasko, the stooge of Aliyu aka Talba will be voting in a pseudo assassin in government house who will be covering the monumental corrupt practices of the State Governor. I must confess that my joy knows no bound when each time I release the fraudulent government of Talba and the indigenes call and text vowing never to vote for him as a Senator and they made good their promise. This is the moment that we have been waiting for, when the true story of my kidnap and subsequent imprisonment will be made public.
As a journalist, I got fed up with reports concerning the Southern governors which are often laced with corrupt practices. I could not imagine why only the governors from the South were always at the receiving end of fraudulent practices while we forget that there are governors also in the Northern parts of the country. My inquisitiveness got the better part of me as I began to look for the most corrupt among the Northern governors and my searchlight landed on Niger State government.
I will not tell us how I did the investigations that unravel fraud worth over N40 billion of Nigerlites wasted in frivolous contracts and expenditures that never showed in the State or the residents. To prove to the world that it won’t be only about document, I got citizen reporters who snapped the mess of a State called Niger; and I set to work.
MY CONTACT WITH THEM BEGAN
On August/September 2014, I sent a message to the State Commissioner for Information requesting him to respond to the fraudulent report in my custody. A gentleman I must confess; he responded that I could also contact the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) Saidu Ndako (who signed some of the document used in siphoning the money), which I did. Ndako replied me and pleaded that I send him the document through his mail which I declined. Instead I sent him parts of the allegations through sms after which he replied that he will get back to me. Few minutes later, I got a call from a person who identified himself as Israel Ebije, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the governor. He promised to call me back later in the day which he truly did around 8:30 pm.
I told Ebije of the documents and demanded for his response since he was speaking for the State Government. Instead he opted to negotiate the story to be killed with cash, while I also tell him the source of my documents. In response, I demanded to know from him if he was a journalist, which he answered in the affirmative. “It is people like you that kill this profession. If you were not a CPS, but a practicing journalist and a government official asked you to disclose your source, will you”, I replied him. He promised to get back to me with response and ended the call. THIS WAS ALL RECORDED in my phone!
THE THREAT BEGAN
Days later, I reached out to the SSG and CPS in the evening that since they could not give official response, their silence will be taken as consent. Immediately Ebije replied me via text message that I should check my mail which I did and lo and behold, there was a threat daring me to go ahead with the publication and see if our civil conversation will not turn military. Alongside the threat was a lousy statement written by Ilyasu Dhakco, which had no effect to the story I investigated. I contacted my publisher (Daily Voice NG) in United States and we did an editorial calling on the State Security Service (SSS) to effect the arrest of Ebije for threatening my life. The next day followed a photo news on how the State Government under developed the State, showing dilapidated schools and roads.
On the 18th of September 2014 around 10:13am, my phone rang and behold it was the SSG calling. I picked it and after pleasantries, he questioned why I went ahead with the story. I reminded him that he never replied to our questions and in his usual characteristics, he lied that he was out of the country. Then like a baby, he began to plead that I should not continue to embarrass the State Government with the big one coming up. Like a baby denied of her mother’s milk and a voice so humble, he begged that I give them a chance to say their own part of the story before going ahead to publish. I reminded him again that I personally offered to pay my flight ticket in August to Abuja for the interview which Ebije later cancelled and as such I won’t come again. At this juncture, he requested that I come to Minna which I refused, suggesting the same Abuja where he will meet me. Then he offered to pay for the flight ticket for me to come the next day, and requested that I send my account number, which I refused; telling him to make the booking and send the flight details via mail.
Cunning SSG, he called later around 1pm that there was no one to send for the booking as all of them had gone home and I should send my account number so I can do it myself. It sounded funny that the SSG with all his retinue of aides could not find someone to send. I bluntly told him to call back any of the aides and send, to which he muttered some words and ended the call. In the evening around 7pm, one of my staff called me that the flight ticket has been paid for with the details sent to the official mail. AGAIN ALL THESE OUR CONVERSATIONS WERE RECORDED!
I went to the Asaba International Airport to board my flight of 4:30pm. There we exchanged text messages, where he offered to send a cab to pick me but I refused; insisting that someone will pick me when I get there. I requested that he meet me at the Anchor Point (the venue where National Association of Seadogs meets) in Abuja when I arrived and I flew to Abuja.
THE ASSASSINATION PLOT
As soon as I got down from the airport, I switched on my spy camera biros to begin monitoring every event. The spy biro was taken along to record all the conversation I will be having with the SSG, which never came to pass. As I stepped out of the arrival hall, with a female co-passenger who I was using my brand new Samsung S5 to snap; some men approached me pretending to be Airport cab men. At this point, there was uproar as the real cab operators stated that the men who approached me are new and cannot carry me. That was when one of them (the most professional of them) flashed his ID card bearing SSS and in a commando fashion, I was rushed into a small vehicle, handcuffed and blindfolded by three men, while two hilux were in front. While in the vehicle, it was discovered that my Samsung S5 was missing which they attested to that they left on the Airport ground. I heard the short one among them (very unprofessional) who sat in from saying “Strike force, when you get to a quiet place, park let us carry out the operation”. Then I knew this was an assassination about to take place. My remaining two phones kept ringing, and at this point the one who sat by my right removed the blindfold and told me the names of the persons calling. I told them that it was a journalist calling and he was aware that I was coming to see the Niger State Government. Another call came in from UK and when they demanded to know, I told them it was an activist friend who also knew I was coming to see the government.
It was at this junction that they stopped the vehicle, came down and put a cross which I later got to know was to the State Government. What I heard next from the same short SSS official was “he should be brought back alive to Minna”, and the convoy continued. While in the vehicle, the short one suggested that I should be kept with the strike force, which was countered by the one sitting by my right, who asserted that he can’t take such a risk as I may be injured by the strike force which will not be good for the operation.
Late into the night we kept driving very roughly till we got to the Minna Command. After taking records of all that was with me, I was taken into a small detention room with foam and a blanket inside. With a chain on my legs, I was locked up.
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW.
*** Fejiro Oliver is an investigative journalist who was abducted by the government of Niger State in 2014 for exposing the rots in the State and the corrupt governance style of Governor Babangida Muazu Aliyu