Sani Usman, the spokesman for the Nigerian Army, came calling at PREMIUM TIMES head office in Abuja Monday to interact with editors of the newspaper and make the case for an expanded and cordial army-media relationship in the country.
The visit was aimed at normalizing the relationship between the military and the investigative platform after weeks of tension between the two parties.
Mr. Usman, a brigadier general, who was welcomed by Dapo Olorunyomi, publisher and CEO of PREMIUM TIMES, said he was particularly proud of the newspaper’s “unique professionalism and ethical conduct” which he said defined it and gave it a place of honour within the nation’s media ecosystem.
“I am very proud of the fact that PREMIUM TIMES does not accept brown envelope,” Mr. Usman said.
Welcoming Mr. Usman, Mr. Olorunyomi said frequent interface between the Army and the media, especially PREMIUM TIMES, would engender a better relationship among the two organisations, and the broader Nigerian society.
“Engagement and access are highly essential to the work we both do, but more importantly to the development and deepening of our democracy which the two institutions have a constitutional mandate to promote,” Mr. Olorunyomi said.
In his response, Mr. Usman said he was “highly impressed by the human resources available at PREMIUM TIMES.”
The visit came two months after the Nigerian Army wrote to PREMIUM TIMES to demand retraction and apology for some of the stories published by the paper.
The journalists were released on the same day and the matter was resolved by the police the next day. No charges were filed.
In his reaction to those developments and several other issues of contention between the two parties, Mr. Usman said his visit was to turn a new leaf in the relationship and communication management between PREMIUM TIMES’ journalists and the military authorities.
Army Spokesperson, Brigadier-General Sani Usman with PREMIUM TIMES Publisher, Dapo Olorunyomi and Editor-in-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed
He blamed past disagreements on “communication gap” and described it as an “unfortunate” situation.
In his reaction, Musikilu Mojeed, the Editor-in-Chief, said PREMIUM TIMES greatly appreciates the efforts of the Nigerian Army in fostering peace and unity in a diverse entity like Nigeria amidst unprecedented security challenges.
“At no time in our history has the Nigerian Army faced an unconventional war of this magnitude,” Mr. Mojeed said of the threat posed by Boko Haram. “If there’s no peace and security, PREMIUM TIMES, as indeed most businesses in this country will not have a conducive atmosphere to operate.”
Mr. Mojeed, however, noted that PREMIUM TIMES had done a lot to project the image of Nigerian Army as a capable and professional organisation.
He urged the leadership of the Army, and indeed the entire military, to understand that PREMIUM TIMES would never abandon its responsibility of holding officials accountable and advocating for good treatment for our troops.
“Once we understand each other’s constitutional roles, and responsibilities to society, there will be little or no conflict,” Mr. Mojeed said.
Mr. Usman concluded by saying that the “Nigerian Army has never been this transparent with information” and urged PREMIUM TIMES to be more considerate in its reportage.
“PREMIUM TIMES is a credible medium and whatever you publish will be taken as gospel truth by many,” he said.
For this reason, he urged editors of the paper to show understanding and exercise restraint while reporting sensitive operational challenges of the army.
The Managing Editor, Idris Akinbajo, and Assistant Managing Editors Ini Ekott and Bisi Abidoye, were also present at the meeting. So also were the paper’s Deputy Head, Digital Strategy and Technology, Richard Akinwumi, and Head, Innovation and Knowledge, Joshua Olufemi.