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Half news is not better than none

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By Taiwo Obe

This is what you get when Government officials believe they are doing journalists a favour. This is what you get when journalists forget about the basics of news - who, what, when, why, where and how (5Ws and H) - and become content with the crumbs instead of the full, enriched meal.
In the news recently was a report about some trillion Naira investments coming to Nigeria via the Trade and Investment Ministry. A variation of this report in newspapers and online news portal shows that if there was any contact with officials of the Trade and Investment Ministry at all, then it must have been either through a half-baked press statement or a news briefing where pertinent questions were neither asked nor answered.
From one of the reports filed by a reputable foreign financial news service, we learnt that one Vulcan Energy Corp "plans to invest N620billion in Nigeria's oil and gas industry within a year." So, if we follow the aforementioned "5Ws and H" principle, you will expect the report to answer these questions: Who is Vulcan Energy Group? Where are they coming from? What does N620billion cover? What are their credentials, qualifications, feats/achievements/records? When would the investment roll in? What really does "within a year" mean? This year? 2015? 2020? And, how would this happen? When these questions are answered, other questions may just follow. One of such questions will follow presently.
But, what do we get next? Another sentence that tells us about proposed investments by two other companies. Let's read: "China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., or Sinopec, and Califonia-based Torch Petroleum Inc. also plan to invest 155 billion naira each in Nigeria's oil and gas industry…." The story then goes to quote the Trade and Investment Minister Olusegun Aganga as saying the government has "begun collaboration with the various companies to ensure that the investments are executed within the time-frame given, especially by ensuring that there are no bottlenecks in the way of smooth business for the operators." Finally we are told that "more than 20 companies including US-based GE Corp and Maire Technimont SpA have proposed to invest 4.9 trillion naira in power, mining, health and transport industries of sub-Saharan Africa's second biggest economy within four years," Aganga said. Adding: "The commitments have been on a win-win basis," Aganga said. Whatever that means.
End of story. "To God Be The Glory," as they say in Nollywood?
Well, one dissatisfied reader refused to chant "To God Be The Glory."
Before we follow the adventure of that reader, please note that in several other stories, the Vulcan Energy Corp was referred to as Vulcan Energy International.
As it were, this reader, the inquisitive one, that is, had that morning come across a story about one Vulcan Energy Group, which reportedly defrauded the Sokoto State Government, then headed by the recently sacked Governor Aliyu Wamakko, on a purported power plant project. In 2008, the Vulcan Energy Group reportedly got $3million as payment for technical partnership with a Nigerian company which the Wamakko Government awarded the contract for the said power plant to. One American, Ford G Graham, said to be the principal partner of the said Vulcan Energy Group, after intense pressure from the people of Sokoto State and the State House of Assembly, flew into Sokoto with a chartered plane with some crates (mini-cargoes) of fairly used old switch-gear boxes. The Secretary to the State Government of Sokoto was said to have, with fanfare, received the worthless cargo. As we speak, there is neither a plant nor power in Sokoto. If you have time, please Google Ford Graham+Vulcan Energy Group, and you will be amazed at the kind of fraudulent deeds that are associated with him and his accomplices in Sokoto and the United States of America. Highly recommended for reading is the account on http://subsaharanintel.blogspot.com, entitled, "FAITH's CHICKENS - The Story of Fraud and Incompetence in the Sokoto IPP." Quite sordid.
What would be more sordid is if this Ford Graham has anything to do with the N620 billion Vulcan Energy Corp or Vulcan Energy International or whatever the Trade and Investment Ministry's investor is.
While we wait for "clarifications," "putting the records straight," another company which caught the attention of that inquisitive reader in one of the newspaper reports on the multi-trillion investments "secured" by the Trade and Investment Ministry "from the over 60 investor meetings held in and outside the country in line with the ministry's aggressive investment drive and transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan's administration" is called Tecnimont, "a premier engineering firm in India." An alarm bell goes off. In the heat of the protests that occupied Nigeria, news came from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that officials from one "Maire Tecnimont group of Italy" visited the Port Harcourt Refinery, in line with NNPC's desire to carry out the refinery's Turn Around Maintenance (TAM). As usual, the story of that visit was also relayed in some crumbs-filled information dish which failed the simple "5Ws and H" test but the concern here is: is there any relationship between the Trade and Investment's Tecnimont and the NNPC's Tecnimont.? That is the kind of question readers ask, and it is the duty of the newspaper or broadcast station to provide the answers; not for the readers to go to Google or wherever else to find the answers. That's what they are supposed to get in exchange for the money they part with, or/and even the time they spend reading or listening or watching; not some half or less-than-half ne
Obe is the Group Editorial Director of Harpostrophe Limited, Lagos and founder/manager, EverythingJournalism group on Linkedin

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