NIGERIA’S media rights group, Journalists for Democratic Rights (JODER), has faulted claims by a Nigerian medical doctor, Mahdi Shehu, suggesting he knew how and why a journalist, Bagauda Kaltho, was gruesomely murdered in 1995.
In a statement signed by its official, Adewale Adeoye, the group called on the National Assembly to institute a judicial panel of Inquiry to investigate Mahdi’s claims to know the facts about Kaltho’s murder.
Mahdi had spoken in an interview a few days ago on Arise News Channel, where he claimed he refused a parcel bomb given to him by one Russel Hanks, a United States diplomat, leaving Nigerians with the impression that Kaltho was later given a parcel bomb by the American, which led to his death at Durbar Hotel in Kaduna.
“Dr Shehu’s fresh attempt to link the death of Bagauda Kaltho to an official of the United States Embassy has raised fresh concerns not only about the heinous crime committed against the late Kaltho but also against the Nigerian media.
“This is one issue that should not be allowed to go unprobed,” the group said.
JODER said Mahdi’s position had added a new twist to what has remained an unresolved murder, and that it should be in the interest of the media to pursue every angle to its logical end.
The body noted that Mahdi “has left many holes in his story which make his conclusion to appear questionable”, and, therefore, called for further investigations by independent parties so that those responsible for Kaltho’s death would be held accountable based on convincing and incontrovertible evidence.
“Dr Shehu’s claims are too plain to be believed, especially his statement that the American gave him a parcel bomb to attack Durbar Hotel in Kaduna in June 1995 for N1 million.
“It looks too curious that an American diplomat would work so openly, handing over a parcel bomb to someone he met in a few days, and sounds difficult to believe that the official, even if he were a secret agent, would make himself so vulnerable to easy exposure by a relatively unknown third party,” JODER said.
The group said that in the problematic realm of international diplomacy, it was difficult to believe that the Political attaché of the US Embassy during that period would personally hand over a parcel bomb in a public place like Durbar Hotel without even the fear of a set-up by the Nigerian State.
“But if this was the case, Shehu needs to come forward with more information that will help unravel the murder of Kaltho.
“It is also curious that while Shehu claimed he reported the issue to the late General Sani Abacha, the same dictator did nothing about it to expose the alleged conspiracy knowing the bitter feud at that time between Abacha and Western
“It raises serious suspicion that Shehu claimed he shared the information only with the ruling brutal military regime at the time but not with the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), any media rights group, nor any civil society organization at home and abroad questioning the character of Shehu, his background, what he stands for and the interest he represents,” it added.
JODER called on the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and all media institutions to rise up to the occasion that should help unravel one of the most grievous crimes in the history of the Nigerian media.
“Shehu owes the Nigerian media broader explanations why he did not come forward during the Oputa Panel to speak on Kaltho’s death and why he had to wait for 27 years,” the group said.
JODER added that Mahdi should come up with coherent and incontrovertible evidence, else he would leave the media and Nigerians with the strong suspicion that Kaltho’s death was being used to reap cheap political gains.
The group stated further that Dr Mahdi needed to be held accountable by Nigerian journalists to explain in full the circumstances of his position and, if possible, if other hidden motives unknown to Nigerians.
It stated, “Nigerians need to know if Shehu was revealing relevant information, or trying to add to the thick layers of cover-up and create a diversion from the real killers of Baguado Kaltho.”
Kaltho was working with TheNews Magazine and was believed to have been murdered through a bomb linked to state authorities during the reign of the late Sanni Abacha as Head of State.