· Brave Bala refuses to allocate land under duress
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· Govs, ministers’ main targets of the extortionist
247ureports.com has gathered fresh revealing facts concerning the botched attempt by Alhaji Tukur Mamu the publisher of a Kaduna-based magazine, Desert Herald to extort a staggering N15 million from the Minister of FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed and the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA). Sources at the FCTA told our reporter that the entire saga started about April 14th 2013 when the controversial weekly magazine ran a front page promo tilted: WATCH OUT – FCT Administration: The Rot Within.
In the strange advertorial, the controversial magazine solicited for contribution of negative reports from members of the public against the FCT Minister and the FCTA. The magazine claimed that it was writing a 284-page book detailing alleged rot in the FCTA. Tukur and his co-spinners cleverly wrote on the front and inside page promo that all but one chapter of the book was ready and published a telephone number and email links through which contributors should submit their inputs to the publication.
Having neatly laid the extort trap, it was learnt that the magazine proceeded to send text messages to those perceived to be enemies, opponents and political rivals of the FCT Minister imploring them to send stinkers against the Minister and his aides. To perfect his strategy, Tukur sent bulk SMS to close aides of the FCT Minister and some top FCTA officials about the intended publication with the expectation that they would panic and opt for settlement by paying huge sum of money as ransom to ‘kill’ the looming negative story/book.
However, the opposite was the case as the courageous and ‘stubborn’ FCT Minister called Tukur and his co-travelers bluff by refusing to play ball. Bala simply refused to pay the blackmailers for their orchestrated story/book. The Minister who himself is a former practising journalist shuddered at how far fake practitioners could go in dragging the noble profession in the mud. He volunteered to lead the fight against quacks and extortionists masquerading as journalists.
The Minister’s iron resolve not to give bribe to the Desert Herald publisher emboldened his aides to play along with Alhaji Tukur who naively and myopically came out in his true colours as an undisguised blackmailer and extortionist. Overnight, the same man who claimed to have written a 284-page book detailing rot in the FCT started asking for allocation of land in Abuja and payment of a hefty N15 million as a condition for him not to publish the book.
In two text messages through two telephone numbers (08036376131 & 08099138343) to an MTN number of the SA Media to the FCT Minister, Mr. Nosike Ogbuenyi on May 16th 2013 at 22.19 hours and 23.18 hours respectively, Alhaji Tukur audaciously solicited payment of N15 million and forwarded the Desert Herald Magazine number 1000044292 with the First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Kaduna for the payment of the bribe.
Alarmed at corrupt tendencies of the publisher, the FCTA officials reported the matter to security agencies and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Abuja. On Thursday, 23rd May, 2013, the Chairman of NUJ, Abuja, Comrade Chuks Ehirim addressed a crowded press at the NUJ Press Centre, Utako and alerted the general public particularly public office holders over the activities of fake journalists and quacks who operate as syndicates and specialize in blackmailing top political officers and other government with a view to extorting huge sums of money from them as ‘settlement’.
Ehirim raised alarm on the acts of sending text messages by the quacks to intimidate their targets and personal aides claiming that they have unraveled scams involving their targets with a view to extorting huge sums of money from them.
He said the most recent of these shameful activities of turn-coats in the journalism profession is that of a Kaduna based junk magazine which claimed to have written a book running into hundreds of pages chronicling alleged rot within the FCT Administration. Although Ehirim did not mention the name of any magazine in his statement, day after he sounded the alarm, an obscure Desert Herald Magazine owned up to being the culprit as it published a response its Chairman/Publisher, Alhaji Tukur Mamu in its website calling the Abuja NUJ Chairman and the FCT Minister names for speaking against unprofessional conduct and in the case of the Minister for ostensibly refusing to play ball.
The NUJ chairman condemned the tactics of the magazine as a strange and shady adding that it smacks of voodoo journalism. He stated that while journalists have the constitutional right to hold public officers accountable to the people, such rights should be exercised with decorum within the confines of the law.
According to him, it is wrong to hide under the canopy of the media profession to perpetrate unprofessional and lawless acts. He therefore warned that the NUJ would not fold its arms while quacks drag the noble name of the profession in the mud declaring that “Our duty as journalists is not to rubbish the noble tenets of the profession”.
He said that the Council was strategizing with the NPC to curtail the menace of quackery in the profession. He added that the NUJ Council is in touch with the Nigerian Press Council, the Police and the SSS to sanitize the profession.
The NUJ Chapter Chairman stressed further: “We totally condemn this form of unprofessional journalism especially as we are aware that those behind the false and malicious publications were already seeking ‘settlement’ of the matter through payment of a huge sum of money and allocation of land to them. We are also aware that the FCT officials who had played along with these undesirable elements have declined to pay such unearned money to them. We commend the FCTA for their tenacity and doggedness towards enthroning objective journalism in our land. The NUJ Abuja remains proud of the Hon. Minister of FCT, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, as a worthy Ambassador of the journalism profession.
The NUJ warned the publisher of the Kaduna based magazine involved in this ignoble act to retrace his step stressing that the NUJ and security agents are already in possession of strong evidence against him and his company.
In an interview with Press Gallery, the SA Media to the FCT Minister indicated to 247ureports.com the efforts of the Abuja chapter of NUJ to rise against the virus of blackmail and extortion by the bad eggs in the journalism profession. He called on the Kaduna state chapter to take a cue from its Abuja counterpart by investigating the activities of Desert Herald magazine and its publisher. The hardworking FCT Minister should not succumb to the blackmail by corrupt publishers and their agents who specialize in harassing and extorting money from innocent officials and other individuals.
Also speaking on failed plot to extort money from FCT Minister by Desert Herald, the Niger Delta Youth Movement (NDYM) commended Senator Bala Mohammed describing him as a principled, fearless and patriotic leader. A recent statement by the President of NDYM, Prince Ajulisan Omamuminogho Akumagba, a foremost Niger Delta youth activist and civil society practitioner said the actions of more courageous leaders like the FCT Minister would help to stamp out the virus of extortion and blackmail from the Nigerian media sector. He also commended the FCT NUJ and the SSS for acting swiftly on the petition of the FCT Minister against the Kaduna based quack magazine whose publishers had demanded a whopping N15 million and a plot of land in Abuja to ‘kill’ an alleged negative story which the patriotic and hardworking minister flatly refused to pay and rather blew the whistle.
Akumagba strongly condemned what he termed a diversionary campaign of calumny against the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed by some disgruntled politicians from his home state, Bauchi who he accused of working in cahoots with the corrupt Kaduna based magazine to blackmail the FCT Minister and checkmate his rising profile.
Akumagba called on other northern governors, ministers and top public officers being harassed by Desert Herald to follow the good example of the FCT Minister by refusing to succumb to the threats and antics of the junk practitioners. “If nobody agrees to pay bribe to the blackmailers, the virus of extortion would die and our society would be better for it,” the Niger Delta prince contended.
247ureports.com’s investigations revealed that several top politicians mainly from the Northern part of the country, where the dubious magazine operates, had fallen victim of Desert Herald’s tantrums and had funnelled in several millions of naira to its publisher’s swelling bank accounts. That is in spite of the fact that the magazine hardly boasts of a full page advert in each weekly edition.
It was also found that the publisher, Tukur lives an ostentatious lifestyle despite not having a discernible legitimate means of income. Though said to be in his early forties, he is reputed to have four wives with numerous children.
An inquest into his past is redolent with scandals. He once worked with NEPA and got entangled in shady deals and forgery cases before prematurely exiting the organization. He is also suspected to have forged some of the certificates he is claiming to have. In fact, Tukur Mamu’s story is a huge scandal sheet.