Kano state Governor Abdullahi Ganduje (left) is seen with President Mohammadu Buhari in Kano, Nigeria, on January 31, 2019. Ganduje recently threatened to "deal with" journalists responsible for a 2018 report on alleged corruption. (AFP/Pius Utomi)

Nigerian governor threatens to ‘deal with’ journalists who covered 2018 corruption case

On March 19, 2021, Abdullahi Ganduje, the governor of Nigeria’s northern Kano state, said in an interview with the BBC’s Hausa-language service that he planned to “deal with” journalists who produced a 2018 series of videos published by the privately owned Daily Nigerian news website, which alleged that he had received bribes.

“We are making plans. We will not disclose what sort of plans we are making,” Ganduje said, saying that the videos were fake. “The main issue is that we will deal with those who made it.”

On March 22, Daily Nigerian publisher Jaafar Jaafar filed a petition to Nigeria’s police force through his lawyer, Abdullahi Gumel, alleging that “Ganduje recently indicated that he and his supporters are scheming underground to deal with our client,” according to a copy of the petition reviewed by CPJ and a report by the Daily Nigerian.

The petition also accuses Ganduje of “instigating, inciting, aiding, abetting and procuring his supporters… to harm their client, his family and property” and described the comments as “a ratification of past stalking, harassment and threats” to Jaafar by Ganduje’s supporters after that story’s publication in 2018.

In the petition, Gumel asked police to investigate any plots against his client and ensure Jaafar’s protection from threats and harassment. CPJ could not determine whether police have taken any action in response to the petition; National Police spokesperson Frank Mba did not answer multiple calls and text messages seeking comment.

After the reports were published in 2018, unidentified people approached Jaafar’s home and requested to see him, which the journalist felt was an attempt at intimidation, he said in an interview at the time. According to the petition, Jaafar fled his home state of Kano in 2018 and “lives in perpetual fear in the rest of the country.”

In November 2018, Ganduje filed a 3 billion naira (US $7.88 million) civil defamation lawsuit against Jaafar and the Daily Nigerian over those videos, according to copies of the suit reviewed by CPJ and a report by the privately owned Premium Times news website; that case is still ongoing.

In a phone interview with CPJ, Kano State Information Commissioner Mohammed Garba said that the governor’s remarks about wanting to “deal with” journalists were made in reference to that defamation suit. Garba also disputed Jaafar’s assertion in the petition that he fled the state, saying he believed the journalist had freely entered and exited Kano since 2018 without receiving any threats.

CPJ called and texted Ganduje’s chief press secretary, Abba Anwar, for comment, but did not receive any responses.

When contacted by messaging app, Jaafar declined to comment to CPJ about the recent threats, saying he wished to avoid jeopardizing the ongoing court case regarding the matter.