The publisher of Sahara Reporters has accused Nigeria’s Senate President, Bukola Saraki, for cloning his newspaper and stealing his brand identities to create fake versions of his website.
Sahara Reporters, a U.S.-based news website, with special focus on Nigeria, said it believed the Nigerian senate president, who is facing charges of false asset declaration, is masterminding the proliferation of imitation of cloned versions of the newspaper aimed at circulating lies to the public while disguising as Sahara Reporters.
The publisher, Omoyele Sowore, said his team had so far blocked three fake websites since January 2015. He said the faking websites were blocked from Google, Web4Africa and Twitter.
“The only one left is a Facebook account,” Mr. Sowore said.
The outstanding fake account is named Sahara Reporters Rescue.
Checks by PREMIUM TIMES showed that it had assumed the branding features of the original Sahara Reporters with insignificant modifications.
Mr. Sowore said Sahara Reporter Rescue had succeeded in deceiving about 30 thousand people while circulating contents praising and defending Mr. Saraki.
Its bio is an exact copy-and-paste version of the original Sahara Reporters.
“I know Saraki is directly behind it,” Mr. Sowore said, explaining that he was only concerned the public might mistake the page for the original Sahara Reporters.
Identity theft is an emerging fraud in the Nigerian cyberspace, mainly used by politicians to clone digital identities of critical media house with the aim of using the clone to pass down propagandist inform, faking endorsement.
It is a form of cyber attack that utilizes deception, rather than the brute force of DDoS attacks.
While many other digital businesses treat identity theft with urgency and seriousness, Facebook is notorious for being slow in checking the crime.
Facebook’s clumsy reporting process and policy make fighting clones and replicas almost impossible for victims.
The suspected pirate
The suspected pirate is Osinuga Oriola Mcleish, a blogger and member of the Kwara All Progressives Congress. Although Mr. Osinuga denies the crime, investigations by PREMIUM TIMES traced his digital footprints on the downed websites and the fake Sahara Reporters Facebook Page.
“I don’t know anything about it,” Mr. Osinuga said before hanging up during an interview.
Mr. Saraki’s new media team also denied involvement in the crime.
“Sahara Reporters is not that important for me to waste my time on,” Bankole Omishore, a new media aide to the Senate President told PREMIUM TIMES. “We no longer monitor Sahara Reporters.”
Mr. Omishore said Sahara Reporters had been critical of his boss, claiming the newspaper was hired to promote propaganda to sack Mr. Saraki.
The publisher of Sahara Reporters denies any personal grievances with the senate president, saying , “I only have beef with thieves.”
“I’ve been covering Saraki since 2005 with the same tenacity I covered (James) Ibori,” he said. “I know very well he (Saraki) has stolen a lot of money and should not be Nigeria’s number three man.”