Analysis by YUSUF ABAJI
Recently, the Pointblanknews, an online publication deployed extremely malevolent blackmail journalism to smear the founder of Aiteo Group, Mr. Benedict Peters. Aiteo Group is an integrated, global-focused Nigerian energy conglomerate. The report by the online medium on July 12, 2022 was deliberately false, misleading and defamatory. And this was needless.
Throwing the foundational ethics that have undergirded journalism practice over centuries to the dogs this uncouth online hound alleged without even basic journalistic verifications, that Aiteo boss Benedict Peters “is currently trapped in a swamp of international money laundering and financial crimes, according to documents.”
Further, they alleged that Peters “is a subject of various indictments both in Europe, United Kingdom, United States of America and Nigeria” – in short on planet earth. There is more.
They conveniently cited “a trove of documents, including bank details, has exposed a syndicated string of alleged financial crimes involving Mr. Peters, his companies, cronies, family members and shell companies in which millions of dollars and billions of naira were moved across banks within Nigeria and in the Isle of Man, reputed for being a safe haven for international money launderers.”
With the unmistakeable traits of ravenous hyenas, this publication that lays false claim to being a member of the respected profession of journalism even further alleged that “investigators have recommended that Mr. Peters be extradited from Ghana to Nigeria to face charges for numerous corruptions perpetrated by him.” The alleged pseudo-charges, they published included a laundry list of financial misdemeanours.
The Pointblanknews even went further to list some of Aiteo boss’s legitimate assets as if it was now a crime to own business private jets, et cetera. Of course, Mr. Peters is neither “trapped in a swamp of international money laundering and financial crimes,” nor a subject of various indictments both in all the countries of the planet.
These are craven allegations fed by unhidden ‘stomach infrastructure’ push of a largely discredited medium. Mr. Peter’s accuser is neither professionally diligent nor an honest moderator. The Aiteo boss is available for any legitimate enquiry on any subject matter concerning his businesses.
Pointblanknews’ veiled references to unfounded scandals readily give it out as paid fifth columnist pushing sponsored agenda. These cannot stand proper judicial test as opposed to quasi media trial. It is noteworthy that the allegations being peddled currently and previously against Mr. Peters and Aiteo were largely the same issues which have already been conclusively determined by courts of competent jurisdiction or pending in court and the purpose of the publications could only be to impugn the integrity of Mr. Peters and the company.
The online report offered no facts, information or explanation as to what it alleges. It could not establish that Mr. Peters or some of the entities that it named had done any specific wrong or contravened any laws or business practices.
Deploying genuine investigation, the publication could have arrived at a different conclusion and subsequent report. Prior to its cooked-up publication, its editors did not even make the professional effort to contact Aiteo and hear their own side of the story to professionally deliver a balanced report.
The Pointblanknews’ article simply peddled malicious untruths conceived to embarrass, humiliate or disgrace both Aiteo organisation and Mr. Peters, without any established grounds.
Good a thing, Aiteo has activated the necessary measures to seek redress from the malicious attack. It has appropriately referred the matters to its lawyers for further decisive action against the publisher as well as all online publishers who unprofessionally disseminated the article.
It’s a given that powerful visions pull in ideas, people and other needed resources. It creates the momentum and will to incept specific changes. It inspires individuals, complementary organizations and institutions to commit, to persist and to give their best.
Mr. Benedict Peters, founder of the giant energy conglomerate Aiteo Group has enlisted this enduring philosophy, and demonstrated impeccable professionalism, discipline and persistence to impact both Nigeria and the continent’s energy sector milieu positively.
His entrepreneurial savvy and vision has led to his widespread business empire providing jobs and enhancing meaningful indigenous participation in an energy sector dominated by IOCs. He has also helped to deepen the country’s capacity to manage its oil assets and create critical local content. His boundless philanthropy in diverse arenas has impacted and lifted many lives.
It bears repeating that the core area of Aiteo’s business, at its inception, was trading and distribution of all kinds of petroleum products but grew to include upstream exploration and production of crude oil condensate and gas, bulk petroleum storage, refining of petroleum products, trading, marketing and supply as well as power generation and distribution. Under Mr. Peters’ leadership, Aiteo has grown rapidly and steadily over the years, becoming a significant player in the Oil and Gas industry in Africa. It has successfully expanded its business footprint into Power, Mining, Real Estate, Agriculture and Health.
Against the background of what clearly looks like a blackmail project, the Aiteo Group boss has never shied away from any legitimate enquiry on the processes that govern his businesses.
It is then little wonder the emerging consensus is that the trend of media corruption and unprofessionalism gaining traction in recent times cannot be denied or glossed over. What is fast gaining notoriety is the rate at which some local and even foreign journalists are contracted by some unscrupulous entities to damage national growth of African countries through undermining indigenous players in strategic sectors.
It could be recalled that sometime last year, a miffed consortium of human rights lawyers, Council of Ethnic Youth Leaders of Nigeria, CEYLN in conjunction with some civil society organisations kicked against the contrived inquisition against Mr. Peters. But it appears that this trend of sponsored attacks may not end anytime soon.
While competition is a welcome development in a capitalist economy like Nigeria’s, healthy rivalry is part of the game. But when some greedy entities contrive smear campaigns to rubbish corporate rivals, this is clearly crossing the line of decency and ethics and must be rebuffed.
Beyond the boardroom now, major players appear to have taken their bitter rivalry to some newsrooms and go as far as contracting journalists especially those renowned for their expertise and experience in paid media warfare to undermine competition.
But then when such journalistic scum misread their supposed quarry, there must be consequences. Clearly, Pointblanknews goofed on Aiteo.