“We are of the view that in terms of its formalistic processes, and its philosophy of content, the new media that will help spur the challenge of educational revolution, cultural rebirth, and economic development in Nigeria must be reflective, thoughtful, analytic and empathetic without a sense of entitlement and insularity”, this is what Nigeria’s influential The Premium Times says about its mission.
Premium Times, founded in mid-2011, believes that the time has come for Nigeria to embrace the challenge of progress and development in a substantial, concrete sense.
The man behind this newspaper – the Chief Editor Mr. Musikilu Mojeed is a former John S. Knight International Fellow at the Stanford University and Ford Foundation International Fellow at the City University of New York. Mr. Mojeed has reported extensively on corruption, human rights and human trafficking and is one of Africa’s most respected investigative journalists. He is well known for exposing government and corporate corruption in Nigeria.
A winner of several awards, including the FAIR’s Editor’s Courage Award, a Stanford journalism fellowship, the Wole Soyinka Investigative Reporting Award and a Ford Foundation Fellowship, Mojeed was on the board of the Forum for African Investigative Reporters, and is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors.
He is a member of the world’s foremost investigative journalism group, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists collaborates with hundreds of members across the world. Each of these journalists is among the best in his or her country and many have won national and global awards. By now, ICIJ is well-known in the entire world for its leaks, including Panama Papers, Paradise Papers, Offshore Leaks etcetera, which had rattled several governments and corrupt conglomerates in the world by exposing corruption and nepotism.
In November this year, Mr. Musikilu Mojeed appeared in the ‘Meet The Investigator’ section of ICIJ, with Mr. Will Fitzgibbon, senior reporter of the organization who also is ICIJ’s Africa and Middle East partnership coordinator.
With huge interest, I read the entire interaction between Mr. Musikilu and Mr. Fitzgibbon.
Replying to a question, as to why Mr. Musikilu became an investigative journalist, he said:
It’s very simple, but it’s something that I hardly ever talk about. Growing up in high school, I was studying to be an engineer. I wanted to become a chemical engineer because I saw that they were making quite a lot of money.
But I was also president of the press club in high school. At that time, we had a huge impact with some stories. We were doing stories about how senior students were bullying junior students and how some seniors were polluting the environment by defecating. When we exposed them, the school did something.
We did a story about how some teachers were leaving the school campus through perimeter fences rather than by the main exit. For this same offense, students were being beaten and punished every day by teachers. Yet teachers were committing the same crime! We documented teachers doing this. Once we published, the teachers were angry. We had to go underground. The principal called a staff meeting. He said to the teachers, “You can’t do this, you have to lead by example.” I didn’t know that what we were doing was journalism.
That’s how I fell in love completely with journalism. I thought that this is one profession that can cause enormous change in society. From then on, I didn’t want to do anything else.
Back in 2012, The Premium Times had leaked the biggest scoop, which is known as the ‘Malabu Scandal’. Commenting on this, Mr. Musikilu Mojeed said:
In 2012, less than a year after Premium Times started, we received information that our government had signed a deal with what we considered to be an illegal entity because there was a fake director on the company’s board. This is a case where a former minister of petroleum [Dan Etete] awarded a very lucrative oil concession while he was in power. One of the people on the board of the company was the son of the former dictator, Sani Abacha.
After [Etete] left office, the government that came in 1999 tried to take back the assets from him. There was this back and forth for several years. In 2011, our government signed a settlement agreement with him, which meant Shell and Eni promised our government $1.1 billion. In exchange, our government passed the money to this company, Malabu. This former minister had been convicted in France — he was a fugitive. Even now he’s a fugitive from Nigeria. Our government basically passed money to this guy and then this guy then passed a lot of his money to friends in Nigeria. The money was withdrawn in tranches of cash and we suspect lots of this was used to bribe former government officials.
We broke this story and we’ve been on it all these years. The matter has been investigated in the Netherlands and in Italy and there were court cases in the U.K. as well as in Nigeria. It’s perhaps one of the biggest scandals in Nigeria. Who were the former government officials that received bribes from Malabu? That hasn’t been determined.
It’s difficult for me to say too much about the case because I don’t want to be accused of tampering with matters before court. But we hope eventually there will be justice.
As we know, for journalists, working in Nigeria is increasingly tough. Things are getting worse. Mr. Musikilu’s newspaper – The Premium Times is facing continuous intimidation – from military, police and government. Journalists working in this newspaper is being regularly threatened. The newspaper even came under sustained cyber attack in during early 2020.
Recently, Mr. Musikilu has travelled to Maiduguri in the northeast Nigeria, where Boko Haram terrorists are extremely active. He went with a reporter of the Business Day to document the stories of girls and women who were raped by the Boko Haram terrorists.
A comment of Mr. Musikilu truly touched me greatly. About the young journalists, he said: “You must be passionate about what you do. No matter how talented you are, if you don’t have passion, you’ll soon get tired. Journalism won’t bring you millions of dollars. If anything, it will bring you discomfort. You must be very patient, and you must try to be honest.”
Very true! We journalists are in the profession out of passion. We never run after money, and that’s why most of us do endure financial crisis. We really don’t become millionaires. But of course, we have the pride of being in a noble profession.
Mr. Musikilu’s contributions as a journalist is immense. In my eyes, he is one of the very few warriors, who are dedicatedly working in exposing corruption, nepotism and other forms of social decays. On behalf of the team of Blitz, we would like to salute this hero. Keep it up, Mr. Musikilu Mojeed and happy new year 2021!