Nigerian reporter threatened over Boko Haram coverage

New York, March 19, 2012–A Nigerian journalist who has extensively covered the conflict between the government and Islamist sect Boko Haram says his life is under threat.

Ahmad Salkida, an independent journalist, told CPJ that he noticed a white 4X4 Hilux with a Lagos state registration number following him on Thursday for several hours, including to his house in Abuja, the Nigerian capital. He said he has also received phone threats from anonymous callers in the past few days that he believes are coming from government security agents in connection to his contacts with Boko Haram. “They said I am a Boko Haram member, that me and them are not supposed to exist. That they know where I live and they will visit me,” Salkida told CPJ.

Last week, various media reported that the Nigerian government and Boko Haram militants have been engaged in secret, mediated negotiations. Since that news was reported, Salkida told CPJ, he has received several threatening calls from concealed numbers accusing him of being the instigator of the talks. “They said that as far as they are concerned, they will never allow anything like negotiation. They said they have it on authority that I am the link to the negotiation process. That I should desist, otherwise they’ll descend on me,” Salkida told CPJ. Salkida has refuted the accusations on his blog.

“We are concerned about the safety of Ahmad Salkida,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “Nigerian authorities must take these threats seriously, and we hold the government responsible for Salkida’s well-being.” 

Doyin Adetuberin, spokesman for the State Security Service, Nigeria’s secret police, declined to comment when asked about the threats to Salkida. A spokesman for Nigeria’s regular police, Sola Amore, told CPJ he is not aware of the threats and that Salkida should report his case to the nearest police station. Salkida told CPJ he is apprehensive of the police, which arbitrarily detained him over his reportage on the activities of the militant group in 2009 when he was a reporter for Daily Trust.

Salkida has been reporting on the activities of Boko Haram since mid-2006. In July 2011, death threats from individuals identifying themselves as Boko Haram members forced Salkida to relocate from his home in the northern city of Maiduguri after he published for BluePrint magazine an exclusive story on Boko Haram’s first suicide bomber. The sect, which seeks the imposition of Shariah law in the predominantly Muslim states of northern Nigeria, has claimed responsibility for a wave of terrorist attacks that have killed nearly 1,000 people, including television journalist Zakariya Isa, according to news reports.