By Simeon Nwakaudu
Some days ago, two major national newspapers led in the publication of
total falsehood against the Government and People of Rivers State. The
Nation and Daily Trust Newspapers. The Reporters of the two newspapers
reported that the Rivers State Government through the Ministry of Urban
Development and Physical Planning had demolished the Trans-Amadi Mosque.
This was the worst form of falsehood, with the capacity to inflame
Daily Trust , a pro-North Newspaper and The Nation, a Pro- APC Newspaper
quoted one Alhaji Abdullahi Musa Tobaco, as claiming that the Rivers
State Government demolished the Trans Amadi Central Mosque. It was this
premeditated and mischievous falsehood that several misinformed groups
The falsehood by The Nation and Daily Trust which almost misled the
entire country exposes the fundamental challenge facing journalism in
the country today.
For a matter as sensitive as religion, these reporters made no attempt
to cross check their facts. As senior journalists covering Port
Harcourt, the country’s headquarters of oil and gas, they refused to go
to the site of the demolition. Their editors never requested for
pictorial evidence of the said demolished Mosque.
Instead, both newspapers concocted photographs to illustrate the
falsehood. They set the online space on fire and waited patiently for
the country to burn. The truth frustrated their deadly scheme.
If you ask me, this was not a mere error of judgment on the part of the
Reporters and their Newspapers. If it was, they would have apologised
since the truth came to light.
None of the originators of this false report has been called to order by
their Newspapers . They will be encouraged to carry out this line of
false journalism next time.
The location of the disputed land is accessible by well constructed
Road. Yet they displayed journalistic laziness and relied on the words
of one Alhaji Tobacco. They rushed to break a sensitive news without
caring to investigate the facts.
Governor Wike personally took some journalists to the location and they
saw that no Mosque existed there. The video evidence has been widely
circulated, both online and on national television.
Of course, reactions to this falsehood by these Newspapers have come in
various forms. But some politicians with waning careers have seen
this misinformation as a means of attracting cheap attention.
The bone of contention was the definition of the status of land title
that the illegal developers claimed to have. The Court ruled that the
title in the possession of the illegal developers cannot be superior to
the State Government title on the said land.
Despite not having any approval, they started petty fencing and digging
up of trenches, but there was no Mosque at the said location. Those
claiming the existence of a Mosque should provide the pictorial and
video evidence of the Mosque before the Rivers State Government
The decision to stop work on the site was taken, officials of the
Rivers State Ministry of Urban Development and Physical Planning met
with those illegally excavating a foundation on the said land and
directed them to stop work in line with earlier notices served on them.
The issue of trying to get an approval to construct a Mosque on the said
land started in 2012. There was no approval given for the construction
of a Mosque.
Justice G.O Omereji of the Rivers State High Court ruled that the
disputed land belongs to the Rivers State Government. This was in
2018. The judgment followed a suit filed by the Registered Trustees of
Trans-Amadi Mosque, Port Harcourt. They had approached the Rivers State
High Court in Port Harcourt in February 2012, after the then Governor
Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi Administration through the Rivers State Ministry
of Urban Development and Physical Planning stopped them from erecting a
structure on the disputed Government land without approval.
Justice Omereji held that: “The Statement of Defence and the evidence
of the defendants two witnesses show that the land, the subject matter
of this suit is State Land acquired for public purpose by the Eastern
Region of Nigeria in 1959 under the Public Acquisition law as evidenced
by the Certificate of Title dated 27th Day of June, 1961 Registered as
Number 26 on Page 26 in Volume 2 of the Land Registry, Enugu, now in
Port Harcourt and whose assets the Rivers State Government inherited
which is Exhibit K.
“The evidence also show that the claimants had no approval from the
Rivers State Government to make use of the said land, prior to the use
of the land for any religious or other purposes and that the defendants
did not destroy any property belonging to the claimants.
“The said area where the claimants uses for religious activities falls
within the area acquired by the Rivers State Government as in the
Exhibit K. The evidence shows that the claimants acquired nothing from
Chief Dr Edward S. Amadi since Chief Edward S. Amadi cannot give what he
does not have because the land in dispute has been acquired and has
been State land since 1959”.
It is rather disheartening that major national newspapers would be
involved in deliberate falsehood evidently sponsored by political
mischief makers masquerading as religious leaders.
One thread of propaganda has been heightened in the entire chain of
misinformation. Why did Governor Wike declare Rivers, a Christian
State? It appears this was the reason behind the planting of this
report in The Nation and Daily Trust. These politicians challenging
Governor Wike’s declaration forget that there are Muslim States in the
country that officially practice Sharia.
Like every plot, this one has failed. Those who sponsored these
journalistic misfits to generate the false report should hide their
heads in shame. Rivers State will continue to make progress under the
leadership of Governor Wike.
Even as the media holds Government to account, so should newspapers hold
their reporters to account. When senior reporters sweep ethics of
journalism under the carpet, the society bears the brunt.