Monday, 4 January 2016

LEAKED! Obaigbena replies EFCC, suggests Nigerian editors collected N50 million

Dasukigate: Obaigbena replies EFCC, suggests Nigerian editors collected N50 million

The president of Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN, Nduka Obaigbena, on Monday said the Nigerian Guild of Editors collected N50 million from the Office of the National Security Adviser.

Mr. Obaigbena, who is also chairman and editor-in-chief of Thisday newspaper, revealed this in a letter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, dated December 30, 2015.

The EFCC had last December invited the NPAN president in connection with the ongoing probe into the $2.1 billion arms procurement fund allegedly misappropriated by the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.

Mr. Dasuki, alongside some top officials of the Peoples Democratic Party, and other former senior officials are currently being investigated for allegedly receiving the arms fund.

In his letter to the EFCC, Mr. Obaigbena explained that it was not only his company and NPAN that received funds from the ONSA, saying the NGE also received money for its secretariat complex.

While Nigerian Guild of Editors has called for the probe of the arms procurement scam, the NPAN president indicated that the editors also collected N50 million cash from Mr. Dasuki’s office.

“Even when he (Dasuki’s aide) suggested that The Nigerian Guild of Editors – NGE – who are now calling for a probe – was paid N50,000,000 cash by the ONSA when President Jonathan donated to the building of the NGE secretariat, I still refused to collect cash,” Mr. Obaigbena said.

“And in any case, I had no independent confirmation the Nigerian Guild of Editors had collected cash.”

Mr. Obaigbena argued that there was no way NPAN could have known which subhead the funds were paid from.

He argued that the media practitioners could not know or speculate which line item the spending was made from by the ONSA.

“There is simply no nexus between payments made for compensation, to us victims of terrorism as well as to newspapers in compensation for an unprovoked attack on free speech, and any arms purchase budget,” he continued.

He called for the complete list of payments made by the ONSA between 2014 and 2015 to be made public in order to have a clearer picture of what happened to the over N70 billion allocated to the Defence Ministry for the purchase of arms.

Mr. Obaigbena said as victims of a horrendous terrorist attack, media practitioners should not be victimized any further as the terrorists would be celebrating what they are being put through.

“We do not deserve further trauma because some official(s), outside of our control, may or may not have followed due process,” he further argued.

“All victims of terrorist attack deserve a fair and just compensation. The fact that we have received some remedy should be reason to accelerate compensation for all victims of Boko Haram attacks across Nigeria however big or small. We never wished this upon ourselves.

“The central purpose of government is the security of life and property of all citizens. And the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as other international law instruments and conventions of which Nigeria is a signatory underscores this – and in fact requires that we receive effective remedy and compensation,” Mr. Obaigbena said.

He also took time to explain why the ONSA paid N670 million and another N120 million to one of his firms, General Hydrocarbons Ltd, and how the funds were used.

When contacted on the allegation that the NGE received N50 million from the ONSA, the former president of the body and special adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, declined to speak on the matter.

Mr. Adesina referred this newspaper to his successor, Garba Deen Mohammed, whom he said was in a position to speak on the matter.

However, Mr. Mohammed also declined to speak on the issue and instead advised PREMIUM TIMES to investigate the matter.

PREMIUM TIMES checks showed that former president, Goodluck Jonathan, had in April 2014 at the NGE national secretariat fund launch pledged N50 million for the project.

Mr. Jonathan, who was represented by the then Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, had appealed to the media to portray Nigeria in good light.