Desert Herald’s hatchet job on NIS

Anyone will be forgiven if he or she wonders whether the management and reporters of Desert Herald are trained practitioners. Their self-righteous brand of journalism has been one of taking every important news from obtuse angles. Whenever they have no idea about what the trending news is, they tend to plagiarise Sahara Reporters, not minding the culture of unverified news for which the New York-based blogger has been known for. 

The newspaper has gained notoriety for dragging the names of either successful businessmen or respected public servants in the mud. They would not even spare hardworking and committed civil servants and elected representatives. Desert Herald and its promoters truly represent the abhorrent media practice of ‘pay me, or I publish dirty stories about you,’ the brand that Professor Wole Soyinka would call the gutter journalism.The all too familiar jaundiced journalism, with reports sounding more like opinion articles, need serious retooling by true professionals in the industry; not just for the bad grammar but the ignorance about the difference between news and opinion; or the importance of fact check.

I took time to give this background just to refresh people’s memory about a Nigerian newspaper with the highest level of professional and ethical abuse, and to finally call them out. In doing so, I would like to set an example with their latest in the series of ignorance-laden report on the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and its Comptroller-General, Mr Muhammad Babandede, Desert Herald reporters and editors (if they exist in reality) have goofed big time, with their ignorant claims about the NIS under Babandede. Let us take their strongest points in the so-called report. They claimed that the NIS boss has been ripping off the nation on the production and issuance of international passports and has consequently become “stupendously rich.”

This is the biggest joke of the century.Someone should kindly tell Desert Herald editors that the production and issuance of international passports are based on a well-known contract between the Ministry of Interior and the service providers and not NIS. NIS has not even made an input in that agreement. Indeed, this agreement predates the emergence of Babandede as NIS boss. This makes the report a pure, white lie.Another lie from hell was the one in which the newspaper ignorantly heaped blames on Babandede over the problems with issuance of national identity cards. It is shameful that a media house that has the responsibility to educate the public is ignorant of an elementary fact that the issuance of national identity cards is the sole responsibility of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), an independent federal government agency. It is even ridiculous for the Desert Herald to assume that NIMC does not even exist or fail to ask questions about the federal government agency with the sole responsibility of providing national identity cards for Nigerians.Another ridiculous claim in the so-called exclusive report is that Babandede was the one who stopped former Minister of Interior, General Abdulrahman Dambazau (retired), from returning for the second time as minister of interior. Who does this newspaper expect to believe this fairy-tale? When did Babandede acquire the powers to decide for President Muhammadu Buhari who should be made minister, the officer Babandede himself reports to as a subordinate? Which minister should have his fate decided by his subordinate? Is Desert Herald saying this could happen under the nose of the no-nonsense President Buhari? When did we become such a Banana Republic? As Muslims, the promoters of Desert Herald and General Dambazau should know that fate is a reality of life. Only God gives power to whoever He wishes, and we least expect that Dambazau would forget this, as Desert Herald is trying willy-nilly to have us swallow this flat lie. And more ridiculous, even spurious, was the tale by the newspaper that Babandede had paid about N2 billion to get his tenure extended. And if we may ask, who collected the so-called N2 billion? In fact, we challenge Desert Herald and its editors to name the name(s) of the people who would collect or who have collected such amount from him. If Babandede has N2 billion to give out as bribe, how much worth is he and why is he still working for a salary?Sadly, we can say with pinpoint accuracy that Desert Herald has been missing out on a whole lot as far as developments in the NIS are concerned because it is either they are too lazy as journalists to connect with the facts effectively and efficiently or they are on the payroll of Babandede’s enemies.Babandede’s tenure as CG is unrivalled in the history of NIS.

We challenge Desert Herald to find out whether any previous managers of NIS can catch up with his unbeatable records of infrastructure development and staff welfare. We also challenge the newspaper to prove to the world that Babandede’s array of achievements are not visible.Desert Herald should shun professional laziness and get to the bottom of stories; ask experienced professionals to guide them on how best to present the two sides of any story. The old, bad culture of third world journalism’s style of ‘pay me or I publish dirty stories about you’ is no longer trending. Thanks to the efforts of the Nigeria Press Organisation (NPO) and the credible media platforms that are striving daily to promote responsible journalism in the country. There is the need for the media industry to sanction that assemblage of unprofessionals at the Desert Herald. Maybe when that happens, our ears would be saved from the cries of blue murder by these on-and-off newspaper managers and their reporters. And the nation’s growing complaints of fake news or yellow journalism should start to fade. Enough of this infantile reportage, please.
Hassan is an Abuja-based public affairs analyst.

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