By Muhammad Sani
I read with dismay and growing alarm a news report of the above heading in the Premium Times of 11th September, 2021. Dismay because over the years the online medium has carved a niche for itself for serious and professional reportage, and alarmed because its treatment of this particular issue falls far short of expectations and requirements of investigative journalism. This does not bode well for its reputation and rating.
It particularly rankles that there is a complete disconnect between the headline and the main story. While the former promotes an alleged fraud or irregularity in two companies with same directors emerging as highest bidders in a slop oil sale, the story itself delves into and harps on local companies being muscled out of a bid to export a kind of petroleum product that should not have been sold abroad in the first place!
Also, the story is punctuated by and riddled with sweeping statements, over generalizations, unsubstantiated claims and speculations dressed up as facts and scoop. Attributions were largely vague and sometimes dripping with mischief, leading one to an inevitable conclusion that the whole thing was a hatchet job.
For instance, the main meat of the story was that there were “behind-the-scene manoeuvres in which three bid-winning companies possibly took cues from NNPC insiders and decision makers,” in contravention of the Procurement Act. Surprisingly, there was no shred of evidence to support the allegation. Interestingly, the first and second bid winners, who seem to have two directors in common (Premium Times failed to state what law this violates even though that is what its headline is all about) ended up not paying for the allocation and lost the bid, notwithstanding that they are export companies which Premium Times laboured to suggest that they have enormous financial and technical capacities.
Premium Times equally claimed that the sale of slop oil was “taboo transaction” and injurious to the economy, but did not so much as bother to find out who really authorized it and what benefits the country stands to gain from it.
Must we always insist on seeing things only from the negative lenses? Is it professional for a news medium to base its argument and arrive at a conclusion purely and exclusively on antecedent (as if things must always remain the way they are) and self-serving, skewed opinions of unnamed “industry stakeholders,” “industry watchers” and such nebulous individuals?
On the whole, the Premium Times treatment of this issue is yet another pointer to how vested interests can use the media to fight their own war. But much more than that, Premium Times really ought to have done better!
Muhammad Sani, writes from Guzape, Abuja