Toyin Akinosho, one of Nigeria’s leading independent journalists, has fled his country after a bizarre, apparent assassination attempt that followed a series of investigative reports in Akinosho’s magazine about corruption in the Nigeria oil industry.
Now, as Akinosho looks for a way to safely return to Nigeria, the mystery remains — who wants Toyin Akinosho dead?
Akinosho — who in 2007 received CNN’s African Journalist Award for economics and business reporting — is the publisher of Africa Oil + Gas Report, a publication dedicated to reporting on the petroleum industry operating on the African continent.
In Nigeria, the economy is almost completely dependent on the oil business, with petroleum accounting for about 80 percent of the country’s revenue.
Akinosho himself once worked in that very industry, as a geologist for the United States-based multinational oil company Chevron, before leaving to become a journalist and starting the Africa + Oil and Gas Report “with a view to enabling the general public and industry watchers get a clearer view and understanding of the practice in the oil and gas industry.”
But it now appears that Akinosho’s hard-hitting reporting on Nigeria’s biggest business could cost him his life.
Is someone within the oil industry itself responsible for the threats to Akinosho? In a country where tense recent elections replaced President Goodluck Jonathan with a former army commander who once took over the Nigeria government in a military coup, and which continues to be ravaged by the Boko Haram Islamist terror group, almost any possibility appears believable.
The threats to Akinosho came to a head on March 20 after his car was attacked by a gang of five unidentified men — but Akinosho was not in the car at the time.
Instead, Akinosho, who lives in Lagos, was out of town and his driver was running an errand when the men, driving a white Toyota pickup truck, descended on the vehicle.
“They came down and were asking me ‘Where is Toyin Akinosho?’ and I told them that I don’t know who Toyin Akinosho is, that I have never heard that name in my life before,” the driver, whose name was withheld for security reasons, said.
But the would-be assassins weren’t done yet. They followed the driver and soon cut him off again, ramming the vehicle on the right side, running it off the road.
“One of them came out of the car and slapped me on my face and said, ‘We are asking you for the last time, where is Toyin Akinosho?'” he recounted.
But again, the driver denied knowing his boss, and the men left.
Afraid to abandon the damaged vehicle to thieves, the driver spent the night sleeping in the car — only to be awakened once again by the menacing attackers who woke him up by poking him with a gun. They took his cell phone.
Fortunately, the driver had entered Akinosho in the phone’s contact under a code name.
Lawyers for Toyin Akinosho, noting that “it goes without saying that assassinations have become rampant,” are now petitioning the Nigerian government to provide protection for the celebrated journalist, so that he can finally return home after month in hiding abroad.
[Image: Toyin Akinosho Twitter]