Federal Government responds to UK Telegraph

The Media and publicity secretary to President Muhammadu Buhari, Garba Shehu have released a rebuttal against a malicious publication by the UK Telegraph over an editorial it published, on Wednesday, condemning President Muhammadu Buhari of using aid money from the British government to witch-hunt political enemies.

According to Mr. Garba, “Our attention has been drawn to a piece published in your paper, by one Con Coughlin, identified as your Defense Editor, and titled, ‘Nigeria using UK aid to persecute president’s political foes rather to fight Boko Haram.’ The piece is not only full of factual inaccuracies, it also betrays a shocking level of ignorance of Nigeria and the country’s ongoing war against terrorism.

“Mr. Coughlin’s editorial tactic is to quote unnamed ‘senior officials’ and ‘Western diplomats’ and ‘Western officials’ and ‘political opponents’ making fact-free and unfounded statements. It also appears that he sought out only those opinions which suited and reinforced his disgracefully false headline. Nowhere in the piece is there anything that suggests he attempted to contact the Nigerian government for its own side of the story.

“Coughlin writes that American officials are also angry that $2.1 billion of aid given to the Nigerian military to tackle Boko Haram has not been properly accounted for. It does not occur to him that the $2.1 billion he refers to was budgeted for and wholly spent by the government that President Buhari and his party defeated in the March 2015 presidential elections, and that one of President Buhari’s priorities has been investigating the misuse of those funds. It also does not appear to occur to Mr. Coughlin that the political opponents he is falsely accusing President Buhari of targeting and persecuting are actually on trial on account of how they spent the $2.1 billion in question.

“Mr. Coughlin is equally unaware of the fact that the investigating panel set up by Mr. Buhari to probe the $2.1 billion recently published a preliminary report that confirmed that much of that money was indeed looted or mis-spent by the accused persons, and that the government has started to recover the funds. Coughlin accuses President Buhari’s government of attempting to cover-up the abductions of 400 women and children abducted last year by militants from the Nigerian town of Damasak. This is absolutely untrue. The Damasak abductions he’s referring to, which were recently widely reported, took place, not last year as he says, but in late 2014, well before Mr. Buhari was elected President of Nigeria. (And, by the way, Mr Buhari came to power on May 29, 2015, not July, as Coughlin reports).

“Mr Coughlin needs a refresher course on responsible journalism as much as he needs a crash course on Nigeria. Until he submits himself to these, we’re afraid he will continue to embarrass not only himself, but also the revered British media institution that is the Telegraph.”