Ahmad Salkida, the Maiduguri, Borno State-born journalist widely reported to have strong ties with the Boko Haram insurgent group, has denied selling videos of the sect to foreign media.
In an exclusive online chat with our correspondent on Thursday, Salkida said he was shocked by a report making the rounds that he was profiting from the Boko Haram insurgency.
British Television Broadcaster, Channel 4, had stated that Salkida sought to sell the third and latest video released by the sect to select foreign media organisations.
He was said to have shown the footage detailing how the Chibok girls lamented their ordeal in the hands of the insurgents for the first time to President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Mr. Salkida, who is understood to have shown the video to President Jonathan, is also believed to have tried — unsuccessfully — to sell rights to the footage to international television stations for a substantial, but undisclosed, sum of money.
“News of this is said to have resulted in his falling out with the Boko Haram commanders with whom he was dealing,” Channel 4 News stated in its report.
But in a quick rebuttal, Salkida said at no time had he, in his long term relationship with the leadership of the sect, traded exclusive Boko Haram videos for money.
Describing the report as “junk journalism,” the 40-year-old freelance journalist, who had since relocated his family to the United Arab Emirates, said he would have become “wealthy” if he had chosen that path.
“If I want to sell videos I would be a wealthy man because my sources can give me every single one of their videos,” Salkida, who refused to disclose his location, told our correspondent via electronic mail.
He alleged that there were a lot of “media junks” flying around specifically targeted at bringing him down.
On his level of involvement in reported negotiations with the insurgents aimed at freeing the Chibok schoolgirls, the reporter said he would not want it to become a media affair.
“I’m not keen on taking my efforts to the media and I am not clarifying anything. I wish you all the best with your work. Goodluck once again,” the Boko Haram negotiator told our correspondent.
Also writing on Twitter, Salkida said to be close to the late Boko Haram founder, Mohammed Yusuf, as well as many top shots of the group, stated that he was facing one of the most “challenging phases” of his life.
He noted that he had always been guided by the highest ethical standards of journalism in his dealings with the insurgents.
Restoring peace in northern Nigeria where he was raised, he argued, was utmost and dear to him beyond what his alleged detractors can imagine.
According to him, his contribution to finding a lasting solution to the Boko Haram insurgency cannot be paid for by any individual, group or government.
“It’s a challenging yet interesting phase for me. But modesty is the hallmark of maturity. I will always embrace this virtue in all my endeavours.
“I don’t need anybody to recommend me to the Federal Government. My work on the Boko Haram insurgency and contributions will remain a watershed as long as this crisis lasts.
“My contribution to peace in northern Nigeria is beyond what anyone can imagine. Only nature, not men, can recompense me.
“As a journalist I’m aware of green and red lines in dealing with sources linked to terrorism. One must be guided by the highest ethical standards.
“Let them continue the allegations, I don’t care. What is important is I will remain true to my country,” he wrote in a series of messages on his Twitter page.
He also expressed optimism that the ongoing war against the insurgents being prosecuted by the security forces would be won.
He, however, observed that all hands must be on deck to ensure that the Federal Government comes up with a national security roadmap with clearly defined rules of engagement.
“I’m certain that Boko Haram insurgency can be significantly reduced but the government must be clear and decisive on its policy on national security,” he added.
Meanwhile, the #BringBackOurGirls group has resumed its daily sit-ins following the U-turn by the police authorities banning such protests.
The campaigners, who have been on the forefront of pressuring the Federal Government to do more in securing the release of the girls, posted pictures on its Twitter handle on Thursday, showing its members converge on Unity Fountain, Abuja for the protest.