Nigeria threatens CNN reporter for reported criticism of toll bridge

Nigeria’s presidency threatened Sunday to sanction a CNN commentator for criticizing the Nigerian government’s handling of the developments surrounding the development of a toll expressway in Lagos.

But despite CNN’s reporting that Nigeria’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) was activated to account for parts of the cost of the new Lagos Bridge connecting Africa’s largest cities, Nigeria’s presidency said the channel “begged” for information on whether the statement was accurate. The government did not detail the sanctions planned.

“The CNN want to pursue their agenda, and they’re humiliating the country by using exaggerated amounts of money,” said Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s finance minister, in a series of tweets late Sunday.

CNN said it had asked Nigeria for details on the development to investigate the issue further, but had been told the bureaucracy would take time to respond. The channel said it would speak with Nigerians on social media if it could confirm any discrepancies, but would not disclose any information now because it has the right to withhold the name of the person who made the claims in his tweet.

The toll highway in question is owned by the Lagos state government. It has opened up a new route through Lagos, known as the bridge bridge, connecting the two cities. Over the past week, CNN reported that Nigeria’s treasury was going to account for the toll the bridge may generate after sources close to the matter told the channel that the ATM card already existed and that “world class staff” were in place.

Nigeria’s national toll authority earlier this year came under fire after some of its workers stole millions of dollars and its former chief declared himself a millionaire on the cover of a Nigerian magazine. Public outcry soon led the administration to suspend the authority.

Nigeria’s transport minister recently insisted that the opposition was behind a smear campaign aimed at the authority. A group close to the main opposition party has also acknowledged that it plans to launch a national campaign attacking the authority.

The scandal has further stymied plans to begin construction on a new international airport in the northern Nigerian city of Kano in 2019. The airport was to have been part of a wider transport network but now has yet to be declared operational.

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