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KALA BALGE: INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM OR HEARSAY?

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KALA BALGE: INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM OR HEARSAY?

NEWISSUES, Abuja

By Maiwada Dammallam

Reports during the week indicated a wonderful somewhat near impossible feat achieved by people of Rann in Kala Balge area of Borno State. These reports, although from different sources shared a thing or two. They were all presented with skillful professionalism yet, lacking in substance.

 

Many people chose to swallow hook, line and sinker accounts of the events simply because they were reported by BBC and Aljazeera. In the process, most people missed the obvious similarities in the stories, that is, not counting an equally absolute lack of minimum attempt by these media giants to substantiate their reports. Usually they go an extra mile to have somebody on the ground to verify such gargantuan events.

 

Somehow, it was not the case with Kala Balge. It was obvious Aljazeera and BBC relied on snippets from the Internet to build their stories. Matter of fact, I was made to understand that BBC doesn’t have a reporter in Borno for the past one year which, simply means reports by BBC about Borno were/are and will continue to be second hand reports picked from sources only God knows how they verify.

 

While this is not a challenge to the credibility of these media houses, it is certainly a call to people to be conscious of their actions and responsibilities towards restoring peace in Nigeria. No matter how much our desire for peace, we cannot achieve it by fiction and fantasy. Beside, these media outlets are not as infallible as so many people are inclined to believe.

 

We can still recall CNN’s Jeff Koinange who stage managed a report on the Niger Delta militants which turned out to be pure fabrication for which he was shipped out of Nigeria unceremoniously. Beside, both BBC and Aljazeera reported the death of Shekau, didn’t they? We should never underestimate the pressure under which BBC/Aljazeera reporters operate or the price they pay for coming last in their business of world class reportage.

 

Truly, the Kala Balge case was as confusing as it is theoretically flawed and logically unacceptable. People with clubs, machetes and ‘charms’ don’t simply overrun those with Armored Personnel Carrier, RPG, IEDS – not in military estimation or civilian logic anyway. To make a bad case worse, the Borno state COMPOL, one person that should know about this, is completely unaware about this ‘victory’ by the people of Kala Balge. Forget claims about blown masts etc. Somebody should be smart enough to know about satellite phones which should be one of the communication options of the military, SSS and the NPF in N’East unless, they are more archaic than imagined.

 

For somebody to even imagine the COMPOL could not establish contact with the DPO in Kala Balge to verify a news item that has gone viral since the event, to say the least, is the height of intellectual poverty and zero mental response to logic. In any case, it was reported that the people confiscated APCs, Hilux vans and over 70 motorbikes after killing about 200 insurgents. Why is it the only picture supporting this story was that of a vandalized Keke-Napep and another of about 10 corpses with some people holding clubs? I mean, where are the APCs, the vans and the corpses of the 200 insurgents? Seem like every effort to give the story some measure of credibility ended up robbing it of same.

 

When viewed side by side the heavily stacked odds against the people of Kala Balge – the poor weaponry, the element of surprise – no doubt many people will like to know how they achieved this feat. It will definitely revolutionize modern military strategy and warfare. Against all these, the few people I met with reasonable contact in Kala Balge were clear in their denial of such events ever taking place. One person in particular claimed to have spoken with 3 people including the ‘Wakil’ (representative of the District head) and they all debunked any story like this. Without superior proof I intend to remain with the idea that Kala Balge was ‘news sharing’ gone bad. Until I read the official version of events, I chose to remain convinced by my logical calculations that the reports about Kala Balge were flawed with inconsistencies and zero proof. Beside, even the few pictures going round are not verifiable enough to be convincing. Pictures like those used to support the stories are their for picking on the Internet.

 

In the end, these reports might have inadvertently exposed Kala Balge to more danger of backlash than it is already exposed to being part of a BH overwhelmed region. I pray, may Allah SWT thwart any effort of reprisal from the insurgents and protect the people from the deadly campaign of the insurgents.

 

NB

I’m open to superior suggestions and will welcome such, especially from people with contact in Kala Balge.

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