A Chinese mining company operating in Niger State, Ming Xin Mineral Separation Nigeria Limited and their collaborators, Ali Arzuka and Ibrahim Usman Adam have dragged WikkiTimes, an accountability digital newspaper to court, demanding N10 billion compensation following an investigation into illegal mining and terrorism funding in the state.
WikkiTimes publisher Haruna Salisu Mohammed and the editor, Yakubu Mohammed were named in the suit as defendants.
The plaintiffs in a suit instituted at Bauchi State High Court prayed the court to compel the outlet to pull down the story and tender an apology for what they described as “malicious publication”.
In a court writ served on WikkiTimes, the plaintiffs claimed that an audio recording where one of them, Adam, confirmed speaking with Dogo Gide’s mother was doctored. They maintained that the people of Kurebe, the area of their major operation, had absolved them of paying ransom to bandits in a newspaper publication.
The case has been scheduled for a hearing on December 14, 2023.
Setting the Record Straight
Earlier in September, WikkiTimes investigated how the miners operating under the licences of Eso Terra Investment Limited and Majelo Global Resources Limited, pay bribes to bandits to gain access to natural resources at Kurebe and other surrounding communities in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State.
WikkiTimes investigation showed how they bribed the armed bandits faction of Dogo Gide [a terror kingpin wreaking havoc in Kaduna, Kebbi, Zamfara and Niger] to have access to the mining sites in the banditry-ravaged area. The companies continued operating in the communities despite a government ban on mining activities in the north-central state.
Local miners told WikkiTimes that terrorists loyal to Dogo Gide had been bribed several times to provide safe access to the mining sites. According to locals, the terrorists received a protection fee of N3 million weekly in addition to the gift of motorcycles.
WikkiTimes got an insight into the companies’ collaboration with the terrorists through an exclusively obtained audio conversation where Adam, one of the plaintiffs, confessed that they had to dialogue with Dogo Gide’s mother before operations could begin at the sites.
Though WikkiTimes’ investigation established their connection with the terror group, Adam and Arzuka have denied funding terrorism and illegally operating in the area.
Therefore, the two individuals together with a Chinese company, Ming Xin, that was not accused of wrongdoing in the WikkiTimes report have filed a lawsuit against the newspaper.
In their prayers, they asked the court to declare the investigation as “defamatory” to their characters and reputations.
Apart from the N10 billion demanded, the plaintiffs are asking the court to order a payment of N10 million for legal costs. The plaintiffs also prayed the court to order a retraction of the investigation with an apology “to be published on WikkiTimes website, Daily Trust and two other national dailies as well as two international magazines.”
Threats Against WikkiTimes Editor
Yakubu Mohammed, the author of the investigation who is also the editor of WikkiTimes and his family have been threatened by police operatives in Niger and Bauchi states.
Police officers in Bauchi and Niger tracked his phone number including that of his wife, Nafisat and have been harassing the couple. A police officer, identified as Muhammad Hamzat also contacted the editor’s friend, Mustapha Gangare and WikkiTimes’s reporters Usman Babaji and Rabiu Tahir Musa. The officer claimed that a signal was sent from Niger Police Command to arrest the editor, but failed to formally invite him or the publisher.
At the time, the two journalists were in Sweden attending the Global Investigative Journalism Conference (GIJC).