President Muhammadu Buhari’s order to suspend CNN journalist Bisi Alimi has caused consternation, as the Nigerian government claimed that Alimi was incorrect in his report on the Lekki toll gates, causing Nigerians to protest the government’s selective lack of concern for its citizens.
The suspension comes just weeks after Alimi’s investigation, in which he described the toll gate system as a predatory campaign by the government to make the private sector foot the bill for services that “were hitherto free.” Nigerians were angered by this. In response, the presidency suspended Alimi, who currently hosts a weekly interview series on CNN Africa.
“The CNN journalist Bisi Alimi on his show ‘Bisi & Chika’ has been warned that his news report on the Lekki toll gate is ‘erroneous,’” read the suspension letter, which was sent on August 15 and signed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Alimi and CNN condemned the president’s suspension as a politically motivated attempt to silence free speech.
The facts, however, have not aligned with the government’s rhetoric. The Bureau of Public Procurement, which oversees the procurement process, commissioned an investigation into Alimi’s report, and at least three contracts worth more than $30 million paid to a company for work done by a subcontractor were identified as untendered contracts.
The Bureau recommended that the contracts, which ranged from $15 million to $47 million, be completely reviewed, and Alimi was suspended for two months retroactive to July 25 while the bureau completed its investigation. CNN released a statement reading, “To be clear, no contract or payment was made by this government,” and the government did not offer any evidence to support its accusation against the journalist.
This is a serious escalation of Alimi’s case, which immediately called attention to a lack of transparency in government procurement and the use of public funds. Nigerians now hold a groundswell of anger over the decision to threaten Alimi with threats of a criminal investigation while the president’s own administration openly admits they have been complicit in policies that put citizens in greater financial hardship.
Read the full story at The New York Times.
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