Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Nigeria

Publishing organisation: Premium Times Service Limited

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 2022-09-03

Language: English Language

Authors: I am the sole author of this project.


Ibrahim Adeyemi is an investigative journalist covering conflict and terrorism in Nigeria. He’s a reporter with the mindset of a soldier traveling across conflict zones to conquer enemies of peace and sanity.

Project description:

Merchants of Terror is a data-driven investigation exposing damning financial crimes and human rights abuses committed by criminal syndicates operating in the northwest region of Nigeria.

It is a rare story of data collections on blood taxes, money laundering, forced labour and crime against humanity by armed terrorists indulged by state and federal authorities who have failed to protect helpless citizens.

Impact reached:

My story left many Nigerians’ mouths wide open and tongues wagging, especially on social media. Following public outrage, however, the Nigerian government ordered the redesign of the country’s currencies, among other reasons, to stem the illicit cash flow and financial crimes committed by the terrorists.

Also, the Defence Headquarters of the Nigerian armed forces declared terror kingpins exposed in the story wanted and placed N5 million bounty on each of them. Some of the terrorists would later be killed by the army following the social media controversy that trailed the investigation.

Techniques/technologies used:

Crisscrossing 17 local government areas of Nigeria’s Zamfara and Sokoto states, the journalist spent weeks gathering data probing armed and menacing terrorists diverting hundreds of millions of taxes that should go into pockets of states.

The reporter showed how citizens paid millions of cash in exchange for peace in communities with little or no government presence. And in the space of one year alone, the terrorists amassed over N600 million in taxes that should go into the Zamfara state pocket.

This investigation showed heavy data on how terrorists – locally known as bandits – invested in multi-billion illicit farming to finance their terror activities in the region. The story exposes the survival and resilience of the terrorists who raise and spend money to oil their violent crimes.

In addition to kidnapping for ransom and forcibly extracting levies from communities left unprotected by states, my report showed how terrorists engaged in farming, which involves forced land capture and massive slave labour.

Context about the project:

Four three years, this story remained unattempted because of its cost and characterisation and acess denial. But after painstaiking research for months, I found a way out.

Disguised as a helpless local uprooted by war, embedded myself in the ungoverned spaces for weeks and documented how the terrorists took over the governance and economy of communities unprotected by the government. My report showed how the terror group milked vulnerable citizens to enrich their pockets in communities that should be under the sovereign authorities of states.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

One essential thing about this project is the use of raw data collected by the journalist across the state. I think journalists should learn from the resilience I put into this work. Resilience is the key to powerful reporting.

Project links: