SaharaReporters Is Africa's WikiLeaks

New york City: Omoyele Sowore at the launching of Saharareporters in 2006
Written By Philip Shenon

NEW YORK – From a cubicle in midtown Manhattan, a Nigerian publishes staggering examples of his country’s government corruption online—information that would get him killed back home. Philip Shenon reports.

The new rules for kleptocrats: Keep your Bentley well hidden in the garage in Mayfair. Convince your mistress living in the duplex on South Beach to leave the shades pulled—and to limit the bling. Bribe your banker in Dubai to keep your accounts a secret. Corrupt dictators and thieving bureaucrats of the world, beware. Your plunder is about to go online—certainly if Omoyele Sowore has anything to say about it.

Sowore, a 39-year-old political dissident from Nigeria now in exile in New York, has created a website that has been referred to by more than a few of its hundreds of thousands of loyal readers around the world as “Africa’s WikiLeaks.” Sowore likes the comparison.

One ex-Nigerian governor’s holdings are reported to have included a $6 million London townhouse, a $580,000 armor-plated Maybach sedan, and a 12-seat private jet.

The site, Sahara Reporters, is dedicated to gathering up—from mostly anonymous sources—and then publishing all of the dirt it can find on corruption and political skullduggery in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation.

Its scoops shielded by U.S. libel laws, the site is a phenomenon in Nigeria, a nation that is blessed by huge oil reserves—it is the fifth-largest foreign supplier of oil to the U.S.—and also cursed by the outrageous corruption that petrodollars have created.

The scoops have brought threats against Sowore, who is often publicly denounced by political leaders back in Nigeria as a scandal-mongering criminal. Sowore says he assumes his life is in danger if he travels openly in his homeland anytime soon, a view shared by Western diplomats in Nigeria. The site, which has been sued in U.S. courts by prominent Nigerians alleging defamation, is aggressively defended by volunteer First Amendment lawyers here.

Sowore said the site’s slightly confusing name refers to the Sahara Desert—the actual desert ends well north of Nigeria—and his hope “to kick up some sand in the air and get people thinking.” He said the site “is providing information to Nigerians in a way they’ve never had it before.”

With help from fellow members of the educated Nigerian diaspora in the U.S. and Europe, Sowore, operating mostly from a cubicle in an office in midtown Manhattan, collects photos, court documents, and other evidence of corruption among Nigeria’s leaders and posts it online.

The graft is eye-popping.

Since its launch five years ago, the site has tracked the overseas assets of several politicians, including a large, impoverished Nigerian state's former governor whose holdings are reported to have included a $6 million London townhouse, a fleet of luxury cars that includes a $580,000 armor-plated Maybach sedan, and a 12-seat private jet. The jet’s delivery date was pushed off because of a demand that the plane’s entertainment system be iPod-compatible, the site reported.

Sahara Reporters has posted official land records for what the site describes as several shady real-estate transactions in California, Texas, Washington, D.C., and across Europe involving the families of prominent Nigerian politicians and diplomats. (The Nigerian embassy in Washington did not return several calls for comment from The Daily Beast.)

The scoops go beyond corruption. Sowore said Sahara Reporters was the first news organization to produce a photo of the young Muslim terrorist from Nigeria who tried to set his underwear on fire on a trans-Atlantic flight to Detroit on Christmas Day.

The site repeatedly made news last year with reports that rebutted false government claims that the country’s then-president, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, was recovering nicely from cardiac troubles that forced him to spend several months in hospitals in Saudi Arabia. Yar’Adua was actually gravely ill and died this spring.

“This is evidence-based reporting,” said Sowore. “We are here as a check against corruption and bad government. If we have photographs of the corruption, we post them.” He said “a lot of our leaks come from Nigerians who are angry—who want to see a different country.” The site has given Nigerians a journalistic watchdog that local reporters back home in West Africa could not hope to duplicate. In Nigeria, reporters are routinely threatened with violence or bribed into silence.

The site’s impressive muckraking has drawn the support of that most august of American philanthropies—the Ford Foundation, which has given Sahara Reporters $175,000 over the last two years.

“I hadn’t seen anything like this,” said Calvin Sims, a former New York Times foreign correspondent who now works for the foundation and is overseeing the grant. “The impact it’s having—holding political leaders to account—is very impressive.” He said Sahara Reporters could be a model for similar sites throughout the developing world.

In exchange for the foundation’s money, Sahara Reporters established a formal editorial board and released a concrete mission statement promising the site’s reporters would be “unapologetic practitioners of advocacy journalism” while producing “verifiable and accurate news and untainted social commentaries.”

The site has many fans at the State Department. John Campbell, U.S. ambassador to Nigeria in the Bush administration and now a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, tells The Daily Beast that he logs onto the Sahara Reporters “all the time” and “my experience has been that it’s reporting has a very high level of accuracy.”

He said the site has a huge following among the educated Nigerian elite—both in their homeland and abroad—because its corruption reporting could not be duplicated by any news organization in Nigeria without “a bunch of goons” on the payroll of government and business leaders “knocking out the offices and a quite possibly murdering one of the principals.”

Remarkably, given the fury directed at the site by the Nigerian government, prominent Nigerian banks and hotels have begun advertising on Sahara Reporters, a reflection of its affluent, globe-trotting readership. There is hope that the site will one day be self-supporting from ad sales.

“At the beginning, no one would be brave enough to advertise with us,” Sowore said. “Now they realize that it is a very popular website, that we have important readers. It’s a risk they want to take.”

Philip Shenon, a former investigative reporter at The New York Times, is the author of The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation.

 

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KUDOS TO SOWORE & HIS ASSOCIATES

To Omoyele Sowore and other dogged journalists who are daily sustaining the fight for a better Nigeria for us all.I say may God preserve your lives.
May you live to see and live in the Nigeria of your dreams.
May we all witness the terrible judgement that will soon befall all the predators who have brought this country to its knees.
Just as the guillotine cut down the enemies of the French people so shall the enemies of the Nigerian people be cut down.
May your name be remembered forever by future generations of Nigerian children for this good fight you have taken up.
We shall all have the last laugh over the wicked oligarchy that has hijacked this country & its resources. Amen.

don't forget to mention other unnamed heros

I will digress a bit to say a big thank you to other journalist,foot soldiers and other guys who have made Sahara thick.People like Okey Ndibe,sonala Olumense,Femi Falana,Kayode Ogundamisi and festus Keyamo.with the assistance of these patriots and other unnamed silent workers who give information to sahara reporters,it wouldn't have been possible for one man alone to do this job alone.While also praising sowore too for his doggedness and patriotism.God will have mercy on our land by sending a real leader to salvage what is left and not all these pretender who want to bring big Nigeria to its knees.

A commendation to Sahara

A commendation to Sahara Reporters. As rightly stated, many investigative or so-called advocacy journalists based in Nigeria would not dream of exposing the ills of Nigeria society as Sahara Reporters. In fact, the western world has created a safe haven for many of us as our anger at the corrupt culture climate of Nigeria, if/when demonstrated or expressed can only yield our demise.
When we talk about revolution, expressed anger will eventually lead to demonstrated hostility to curb the current flow of avarice in governance.

@John Madaki (BUT I DOUBT IF NIGERIAN MEDIA GOT THE BALLZ ..

@John Madaki... BUT I DOUBT IF NIGERIAN MEDIA GOT THE BALLZ TO PARTNER WITH SAHARA REPORTERS ON SUCH A VENTURE.

THAT WILL BE A COMBO BURST PARTNERSHIP... IT WILL ENGULF THE NATION AND THE MASSES WILL START TALKING AND MOBILIZING TO TAKE OVER THEIR DESTINY. IT WILL CATALYZED THE MUCH TALKED ABOUT AND NEEDED REVOLUTION

GADDAMN HOMMIE! PICTURE THAT

IT WILL BE ONE HELL OF ALUTA CONTINUA

you are the best

there is no argument that sahara reporters is the best thing that has happened to journalism in Nigeria in recent times, with our thieving politicians owning media houses and having the journalist in their pockets there is only one place to turn to for credible news; and that is on SR.
I am always amazed when stories that i have read days before on SR become headline news for our local newspapers and media houses. What more can i say,SR has brought out the activism spirit back in Nigeria and shows the true positions of things not the lies that they keep throwing in our faces. Keep the good job up SR

Pls Keep doing your good work but dont follow Stupid Wikileaks

I believe releasing sensitive documents that endanger the lives of troops and their helpers is irresponsible no matter the reason given by the shameless attention seeking CEO of Wikileaks...Pls dont associate Sahara reporters with the senseless Assigne or whatever he is called.

Nice jobs you guys are doing

Nice jobs you guys are doing the Nigerian extraction of mankind.

TUMB UP

Sowore, you are the missing link between the last generation and the up coming ones.
Let it be know that some people read sahara reporters like bible, infact I always ensure I read my bible before coming to the site or else I may not read my bible for the day. BIGGEST KUDOS.

more African wikileaks

congratulations Sahara Reporters on the work you are doing. In Kenya, the MARS Group has done an equally good job exposing government corruption http://www.marsgroupkenya.org/corruption/

Well, few people have access

Well, few people have access to the internet in Nigeria. Out of those that do, many are beneficiaries, past or present, of the corrupt system in Nigeria/world.

I urge the people at Sahara reporters to partner with local media (tv, radio, print) so that they can have a wider reach.

Also I think the kind of news your see on the site are more or less things you hear on the street in Nigeria; few cases have some evidence that goes beyond that.

Nigeria needs more than an offshore reporting. If anyone is interested in helping this country, then come and live an honest life. Forget the leaders for a moment, let us, the followers change ourselves, let us treat each other with respect, let us work hard in our local communities to better the lives of the people around us. If we do that, then we can expect leaders that will respect us and do what is right.

The good people of Lagos State are probably the most hard working in the country, and God has blessed them with a better leader that is mentioned as example. Let us emulate.

Congratulations Sahara Reporters!!!

I want to join your teeming readers to congratulate you at this global exposure. It is indeed well-deserved. I would pride myself as a regular reader and commentator to the news and articles in SR. I would like to enjoin you to keep it up.

We will support you in any way possible because you bring undiluted news of events in Nigeria to us in the Diaspora. God bless you Sowore and Company.

@Supernova

@Supernova

You stole my script ! ha ! just kidding, I can't write that well, but you spoke my mind though. Kudos to SR, you and all those brilliant minds you mentioned.

BRAVO BABA SOWO, SOWO BABA

I LIKED THIS GUY RIGHT AWAY THE FIRST TIME I CROSSED PATH WITH HIM...

YOUR ACTIVISIM/TRACK RECORD SPEAKS VOLUME..... THE PRAISES ARE WELL EARNED, KEEP THE BANNER UP, BROTHER.

THOSE OF US FROM EDO AND DELTA STATES, WHO CARRY REAL SCARS FROM '93, GBADON AND SOJI YOU TO THE FULLEST.

BROTHER OMOLEYE, NOTHING DO YOU... ABEG CARRY GO!

Keep it up!

We are all proud of the good work you are doing. Don´t stop! Keep moving and God will continue to bless you beyond all imaginations.

Welldone SR.

Welldone to SR for the wonderful work they are doing in getting Nigerians, Africa and by extension the World informed. Exposing the rot in our country and beyond. I want the SR to look into how some Governors are runing the affairs of their State, most especially my home state, Imo State. a lot is going on in that state that does seem right

How come there is no mention of Okey Ndibe?

I am surprised no one is mentioning Okey Ndibe. I think he is also one of the prime movers of SR. In fact, I used to think he was the publisher before I got to know of Sowore. Let's also give some kudos to Okey, while of course celebrating the founder - Sowore.

l will continue to thank GOD

l will continue to thank GOD for SR because l do not know what the situation would have been without the existence of this great Portal.The Website, founded by a former Student Union leader of the University of Lagos who with few colleagues fought cultism to a standstill during his tenure.SR has in the paast five years been the scourge of loooters and fraudulent politicians, influencing decisions at the highest levels,putting our leaders on their toes, and setting the agenda for the Nigeria of our dream. SR has provided an alternative for us to reach the world without let or hindrance. And where our own media has been failing SR has filled the huge gap.

Hype-Up Yourself SaharaReporters!

@Supenova: It seems that you are a telepathist and a social scientist apt in telling people's behaviour correctly. We might need you here to fish out, how many Aso Rock dwellers and sundry government people come here to blog with pseudo tags and pretend they've never read SaharaReporters all their lives.

Sowore is a destiny's child, he has the magic wand to bring good people together and separate them from bad ones. Once again, hype-up yourself SR!

www.rig2011electionyoudie@rocketmail.com

 

Thumbs up

Can't believe that a good site like this is available. sahara reporters: report yourselves. indeed!!!thumbs up and keep up the good work. regards.

Re:Wikileaks is WhiteWorld's SaharaReporters!

I have just visited wikileaks website for the first time and I must say that it is seems serious. Whereas, I would disagree with publishing something that could lead to further los of lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, I will always support exposures of corruption.
I am not in any way retracting my earlier statement. I can only add that wikileaks and Sahara Reporters would make good partners!!

Wikileaks is WhiteWorld's SaharaReporters!

I am not going to be excited about this article because it is demeaning to the Black race.
The fact here is that no matter how much you shout as a Black person, no matter how eloquently you speak, the cream of the White world will hardly ever recognise you! They only recognise you when & how they want to and not by merit.
The fact that saharaReporters remains obscure to the White world and a sort of mushroom to a few Whiteworld media individuals that care to recognise it, despite its groundbreaking News & reports over the years, shows that we do not really count.
For the avoidance of any doubt, Sahara Reporters was the leading source of news to BBC and most western media organisation during the Abdul Mutallab bomb in pant incident. Sahara Reporters should have at least by that incident gained global respect and due recognition as a leading news agency on Nigeria and African affairs at par with AP and Reuters, but it has not in the eyes of opinion leaders of the west simply because it is not their own or in some way under their control.
If anything like Sahara Reporters was started by a White South African or White Zimbabwean or a White settler elsewhere in Africa, it would gain global prominence as soon as it begins.
We are all witnesses to the kind of salacious reports about a British MP, Ibori etc over the years on Sahara Reporters. People should ask why no mainstream British media organisation has ever taken any notice of what is reported on Sahara Reporters especially when a British MP was focused on? The answer is simply that mainstream British media organisations are probably not as genuine as colonised Black people believe they are and as such will never hear or talk about what they do not want to hear or talks about even if you slap it on their faces.

if only

I stopped reading Nigerian newspapers and also stopped watching news from the TV since I first logged on to saharareporters. Regretably and I wil always say that if only our reporters and news writers can be this brave, Nigeria will be a better place. All we see in our papers are adverts, politically motivated messages, thisday nonsense awards, paid praise news, awards to under-performaning governors and local govrnment chairman who afford to pay for the awards, page 3 naked girls etc. They will never sale provided we continue to get the best as always from saharareoporters. More greese to all your joints and elbows.

KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

ONLY THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE!

We knew you would go places

Omoyele Sowore, it was a pleasant surprise the day I realised you were the one behind SR. You were almost lost in history after your brave exploits in Unilag when you nearly made the supreme sacrifice, after being tortured and injected with a strange substance. Then came SR, the watchdog! Then the realisation that you were the one behind it. People who mean well for our great country, Nigeria, are solidly behind you, and God, the Almighty, will continue to protect, guide and guard you from the evil men and women who have brought us to this state of hopelessness. Please note that you, and by extension, the rest of us, are up against another form of cultism. However, posterity will judge you as the brave young man who has consistently stood on the narrow and tortuous path of the truth, even when some fellow travellers have faltered. SR is one of the few things that keep one going as a Nigerian (it affirms that we havent lost it all afterall) - most other things have been messed up big time. I log in to SR not less than 10 times a day to keep abreast of happenings, unadultrated, reported exactly the way it is. God Almighty will reward you for being the vehicle through which this is happening. With somebody like you, of my age, making things happen, I guess it is a clarion call on the rest of us and we are ready to play our path in order to achieve the Nigeria of our dream. That Nigeria may be great again!

The task before SAHARA

The task before SAHARA REPORTERS was near-impossible: To be popular, credible, to earn and sustain the trust of very skeptical and suspicious pundits.
This it has achieved with candour, honesty and impartiality. Testimony to this are the heavyweight contributors that this portal attracts - Olumhense, Ndibe, Adesanmi, Shilgba, Tilde, Ochonu, Igbokwe, Naiwu Osahon, etc, etc.

Most importantly, the quality of comments from the readers is very refreshing and for me a few stand out and they include:
ELMANGO MEAT- intellectual, experienced and patriotic(hates corruption)
RAMSES OSIRIS - Black-consciousness, knowledgeable and smart (hates IBB)
OMONBENDEL- Combative revolutionary (hates Ibori)
WADA NAS - Conservative yet controversial (hates OBJ)
KENNEDY OKONKWO - Nationalistic, smart and passionate (hates Bankole)
SUNDAY NJOKEDE - Consistent and passionate about Buhari (hates GEJ)
These and a lot more that space has limited me to mention all deserve praises.

Sowore! the son of the soil

Yele, you are role model to all youths of the present generation.You have just demostrated to these old fools that Nigerian youths are vibrant, innovative and dynamic.I keep wondering why the youth is yet to take over from these old rotten leaders who also infect the greedy among the youths(Bank ole),Nigerian youths have brought more fame to the country than the old folks;the musical world, the movie industry and information technology have all been revolutionalised by Nigerian youth.The only sector being handled by these recycling fools is politics which deteriorate everyday.Unfortunately this sector(politics)dictates what happens in other sectors. Sowore you are genius I knw if your father is corrupt, you will expose him.Bravo, the true son of the soil!

Am Proud of Your Undiminished Tenacity - Raskeey

Sowore has lived up to his militant activism antecedent of UNILAG days.

This global testimony is once again a proof and vindication of two things, viz:

1. Digital social media communication (via citizen journalism) is a potent means of mass education and physical mobilization in a country where virtually everything has failed beginning from leadership to infrastructure.

2. His undiluted and undiminished tenacity for probity and truth over the years, in an era when many others have compromised and settled for the filthy lucre from outrageously corrupt politicians in the land.

I am proud of you boy, Go For It!!!

Time of Go Siddon

The time of 'go siddon' is over (for the benefit of non-nigerians, it means - who are you? go sit down and shut up!. it is a statement made by the rich, mighty and owambe politicians and generally in a dehumanizing manner, to the poor and underprivileged masses).

I have for a while stopped relying on main-line press and newspapers for my daily dose of current affairs as most of them have become puppets to the government in power. Some of the many media houses are even bankrolled by the corrupt politicians, and thus the news published are very biased and subjective.

However, SR as exemplified itselt as what journalism is all about. unbiased, informative, investigative, mind probing, daring to ask critical questions, a voice for the voice-less, a torn in the flesh to all the vagabonds in power, a check to all those corrupt politicians who steal us blind and siphone our resources overseas - good to know they no longer have a safe-haven overseas, as SR will find out and publish it,

SR is a media of the people, by the peolple and for the people. Report yourself! Aluta continua against all forms of oppression.

BRAVO!!!!!!!!!!!

Sowore has undoubtedly taken journalism to enviable heights with his exploits at SR.If we could have just a few courageous men like him in the mainstream of journalism in Nigeria, then the money-grabbing politicians are in for a rough time, and the impoverished hapless citizens would have the last laugh. He has proven to be a genuine activist right from his student union days at UNILAG, unlike others so-called activists whose intentions were only to make noise, get noticed only to become silent after securing contracts/settlement from the nincompoops in government. The days would be here, soon, when the likes of Sowore would be sung, in the annals of Nigerian history. Keep it up Bro!

YOU ARE MY HERO IN JORUNALISM

IS ABOUT TIME WE ALL STAND AND GIVE OUR SINCERER SUPPORT TO SOWORE AND HIS WORK IN THE POSSIBLE WAY WE CAN. HE IS DEMONSTRATING AN INTELLECTUALLY HOW TO EXPOSE THE SECRET OF OUR BAD LEADERS IN NIGERIA