By OKECHUKWU PEACE
More revelations have followed reports that former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration doled out cash to 12 media companies through Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, President of the Newspapers Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria.
This followed investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is investigating series of allegedly dubious payments made to politicians and government officials by a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.).
Investigators had earlier invited the Chairman/Editor-in-Chief of Thisday Newspapers, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, whom Dasuki reportedly gave N670m.
In a letter dated December 9, 2014, Obaigbena disclosed that he collected N550m as compensation for the Boko Haram attacks on Thisday’s offices in Abuja and Kaduna on April 26, 2012 adding that he received an additional N120m as compensation for 12 newspaper houses whose copies were seized by soldiers in June 2014.
The newspapers are Thisday, Vanguard, The Sun, The Nation, New Telegraph, Daily Trust, People’s Daily, Leadership, Daily Independence, Nigerian Tribune, The Guardian and Business Day.
However, while some of the newspapers listed to have benefitted from the N120m confirmed doing so, others said neither Obaigbena nor NPAN remitted any money to them as claimed by the Thisday Publisher
New Telegraph Newspaper
A statement from the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of the New Telegraph Newspapers, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, denied that N10m was paid to the company by NPAN.
It says, “It is on record that following the decision of NPAN to seek compensation from the Federal Government in the aftermath of the seizure of editions of newspapers by the military, New Telegraph computed its losses, which were passed to the association. However, since then, the company has heard nothing from the association on the matter.
“Following a report that NPAN has begun paying N9m (not N10m as contained in the report that has gone viral on the Internet), the management of Daily Telegraph Publishing Company Limited, publishers of New Telegraph, Saturday Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, has written three letters to NPAN for its share of the compensation; but regrettably, as at this moment, not even a kobo has been received.
“Therefore, it is nothing but sheer falsehood for the NPAN president, who claimed he received the money on behalf of the association, to have included New Telegraph Newspapers as one of the beneficiaries of the funds, which as it has now emerged, was disbursed by the former NSA.”
A statement signed by the company’s Managing Director/ Editor- in- Chief, Mr Edward Dickson, faulted claims made by Mr Obaigbena that the Tribune was one of the 12 newspaper companies compensated by the Federal Government for the June 2014 attacks on newspapers, their circulation personnel and vehicles by soldiers in Abuja and parts of the north.
The two paragraph statement reads:
“Our attention has been drawn to claims by the Publisher of Thisday newspapers who is also President of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, that a sum of N10 million was paid to our company through NPAN by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) as compensation for the disruption of our circulation operations, seizure of our newspapers and damage to our property by soldiers in June, 2014.
“Although, like other NPAN members, we filed claims as requested for by NPAN, the fact of the matter is that up till this moment, 11th December, 2015, our company is yet to receive a kobo as compensation from NPAN for the 2014 disruptive activities of the military to our operations.”
As a company, we collected N9m –Daily Trust
One of the media companies, which received the payment, Daily Trust, issued a statement on Friday through its Editor-In-Chief, Mannir Dan Ali, and also confirmed that it collected N9m.
Ali said, “It was at the time military personnel were interrupting the distribution of our newspapers. We considered the option of going to court to seek for damages but there was a meeting of Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria. We were told (at the meeting) that government was desirous of compensating those who lost whatever it was that they lost in terms of not being able to distribute their newspapers for the number of days that that operation happened; and that all members of NPAN who were affected, should submit their claims.
“Media Trust submitted its own claims. At the end of the day, ten million Naira (N10m) was to be given to us out of which, the consensus made at the NPAN level was that NPAN had issues with its Secretariat and out of that N10m, N1m was ceded to NPAN. As a company, we were given nine million naira (N9m) as compensation for the losses we suffered over that period.”
Leadership Newspapers: We got N10m
The Deputy Managing Director, Leadership Newspaper, Mr. Mike Okpere, also confirmed that the Abuja-based newspaper got N10m. He said, “We did a computation of our loss and it was substantially more than that N10m and we gave it to NPAN and NPAN I heard handed it over to the NSA and what it resulted in was that each newspaper House was given N10m each as compensation. NPAN was to go to court. This was out of court settlement. That is what happened.”
We did not collect any money –Peoples Daily
One of the first newspapers to deny receiving the money was Peoples Daily Newspaper. In an email to one of our correspondents by its management, the company said it did not receive any compensation from government.
It says, “One of the revelations on the current inquisition of the tenure of the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.) is that this newspaper is among several other national dailies that received the sum of N10m from the office of the former NSA through Nduka Obaigbena, the President of Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria.
“We don’t know of others, therefore, we can’t speak for them. This is news to us. At no time was such money made available to us in whatever guise. We wish to state clearly that it is false and therefore, wish to completely distant this medium from this revelation.”
The Sun Newspapers
The Sun Publishing Limited, in a statement, denied claims that it received a share of the alleged $2.1bn slush fund from the Office of the NSA.
It, however, admitted to have received N9m compensation from the Federal Government for the seizure of its newspapers and stoppage of its circulation by armed military men in 2014.
The newspaper, in a statement signed by its Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Eric Osagie, on Friday, said the clarification was necessary to silence “mischief makers spreading falsehood on an imaginary huge sum paid to The Sun as part of its share of an alleged $2.1bn slush fund from the Office of the NSA.
“We can boldly say it that we did not share any slush fund with anybody and got none from any quarter. Ours is an organisation run by professionals who place high premium on individual and corporate integrity and as such, will not compromise great values imbibed over the years.”
It said that the demand compensation was necessary because of the brutal and unlawful seizure of newspapers and stoppage of circulation by armed soldiers in Abuja and several cities across the country around June 2014.
It said, “It is on record that the action of the military which led to huge losses to the affected newspapers was roundly and globally condemned then.
“We had to accept the Federal Government’s offer along with others in place of years of litigation in the interest of peace and national security even though the amount was a far cry from the huge loss of revenue incurred by The Sun at the time.”
The Managing Director of The Guardian newspapers, Mr. Emeka Izeze, declined to comment on the issue.
“Talk to your MD to tell you what the position is. Forget about Guardian; okay, okay,” he said.
His colleague in the Daily Independent, Mr. Ted Iwere, also declined to comment on the issue, saying “He (Obaigbena) should tell you how much he gave Daily Independent; you should ask him now how much he gave to us. That is all I can say for now.”
Efforts to reach the Publisher of the Business Day, Mr. Frank Aigbogun; and Managing Directors of the Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Gbenga Adefuye and The Nation Newspaper Nigeria, Mr. Victor Ifijeh, were not successful.
Adefuye and Aigbogun did not answer calls made to their telephone lines or respond to text messages sent to them.
Ifijeh’s telephone line was not available till 8.30pm, when this report was being filed.