Sunday 9 February 2014

Nigeria: More Questions For Tobore Mit Ovuorie - The Human Trafficking Undercover Journalist

I have many easy questions
This would be the fourth blog I am writing about Tobore Mit Ovuorie’s expose on Human Trafficking published simultaneously on Premium Times in Nigeria and ZAM Chronicle in the Netherlands.
I am writing again because the more that Premium Times has put out in attack, defence and evidence seems to raise more questions that needs the person of Tobore Mit Ovuorie to answer, clearly and unequivocally.
One is now of the opinion that the human trafficking probably passes the plausibility test, in that everything she wrote about does happen in the human trafficking world, but it has consistently failed to pass the muster of a credibility test for the reporter and all her handlers.
Please answer correctly
Below, I have a list of questions, I would want Tobore Mit Ovuorie to address with a greater attention to journalistic rigour, truth, facts and honesty.
Scenario: Tobore Ovuorie's friend died in 1999 after being a victim of human trafficking to Europe. Tobore who is 33 now, was 18 then.
Question: How old was her friend when she was trafficked and in what year?
Question: For how long was her friend in Europe before she returned to Nigeria with the AIDS defining illness of Karposi Sarcoma?
Scenario: The average time from HIV to full-blown AIDS without any ARV medication is around 4 to 10 years.
Question: When did her friend discover she had HIV and consequently AIDS? If anonymity is waived, what was her name and who else knew of this story of her trafficking all through to her death?
Scenario: Besides the general criminal activity to do with human trafficking, Tobore witnessed two murders.
Question: Why is she not leading the police to where she attended the Abuja party which she left feeling very ill that she had to attend hospital?
Question: Why is she not taking the police to all the other significant places she mentioned in her report?
Scenario: Oghogho had a number luxurious cars and houses she had built or was building in her home town.
Question: Did Tobore forget to note the car numbers as an investigative journalist?
Question: Where is Oghogho’s home town amongst others she must have had conversations with who had progressed up the human trafficking chain?
Question: In all the places Tobore was taken to, was she blindfolded?
Scenario: Tobore attended a NAPTIP Human Trafficking conference after her ordeal. She supposedly submitted her report to Premium Times before the conference.
Question: Did she share her experiences at the conference?
Question: If not, why is her report similar to stories shared at the conference?
Question: If Tobore was so driven by her friend's experience 14 years before, where else did she share this compelling issue before she was commissioned for this human trafficking expose?
Question: How did Tobore get to be selected for this mission?
Scenario: The risk analysis was atrocious, she really could have lost her life.
Question: So, after that heinous ordeal and Tobore's rescue in the Republic of Benin, she was able to recover so completely from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder under casual medical observation in less than a month to attend a conference reliving the details of her experience?
Question: What has happened to Reece Adanwenon's Facebook page with which Tobore communicated with ZAM Chronicles?
Question: Why did Tobore not use her Facebook page instead or had she forgotten her password by the time she arrived in the Republic of Benin?
Scenario: Reece Adanwenon who was supposed to facilitate the rescue of Tobore in the Republic of Benin had never met Tobore, yet Tobore was able to recognise her from what she could recollect from Reece's Facebook profile.
Scenario: However, when Reece's Facebook profile was communicating with ZAM Chronicle, there was no picture of Reece on the profile.
Question: What happened?
Scenario: Tobore's head was shaved by the ritualists in November, just days before she escaped in Benin Republic.
Question: Where are the pictures of the condition she was in when she was rescued?
Question: Where are pictures of her at the NAPTIP conference since she appears to like hobnobbing with important people?
Question: Did she use a wig during the time it took for her hair to grow back?
Scenario: Surely, after suffering such a humiliation she as an investigative reporter cannot have lost the significance of taking pictures of her recovery.
Question: Why after her rescue with reference to the text messages she constantly exchanged with Premium Times personnel did she wait weeks to inform them she was safe when it appears she was ready to immediately contact ZAM Chronicle in Amsterdam?
Amateurish recklessness
The lax modus operandi put in for this Human Trafficking expose beggars belief. If the text messages she was sending were discovered by the traffickers, there was enough for a death sentence in her communications.
They used no code words, no call signs, the power distance index was very prominent that it was clear she was reporting back to someone and her boss was giving instructions. This escapade was so amateurish to be in any way believable.
With ZAM Chronicle involved, you wonder what they really know of undercover work especially in cases where a life or many lives could have been at great risk.
Too convenient and sadly expedient
Finally, it is all too convenient that critical evidence that could give the real truth to this story was lost, like why she had not immediately transmitted pictures, conversations and much else for most of the time she had her mobile phone. At worst, there should have been an electronic dead drop to collect all this data for the use of the expose.
In the end, we only have Tobore’s word and the threatened reputations of Premium Times and ZAM Chronicle through obfuscation, bluster, bullying and ad hominem attacks to go by, the rest in text messages and Facebook posts is hardly independently verifiable. It is a crying shame.
You cannot trust this
If Tobore was exposed to such evil and unconscionable human traffickers with connections to people in high places in Nigeria and abroad, she and her handlers must be recklessly bold, careless, and utterly irresponsible to reveal her identity where she must daily be at risk of being apprehended and assassinated.
I am sorry, it is time for Premium Times to cut loose of this travesty or both it and its reputation would sink with it, considering the reporter they are supporting has hardly been with the outfit for 6 months, the level of naïveté demonstrated by the seasoned journalists at Premium Times is befuddling to the point of bafflement.

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