Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Guardian distances itself from the multimillion naira arms scandal


One of Nigeria’s oldest surviving newspapers, The Guardian, has distanced itself from the multi-million Naira scandal involving Nigerian newspapers and the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.

The Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN, had confirmed a statement by its former chairman, Nduka Obaigbena, that N120 million he received from Mr. Dasuki was meant for 12 newspapers including Guardian.

The NPAN, in a statement on Saturday by its Executive Secretary, Feyi Smith, said the association agreed at a March meeting to distribute N10 million each from the N120 million to the 12 newspapers affected by a military clampdown on print media in June 2014 during the Goodluck Jonathan presidency.-

However, in an email late on Sunday, Alexander Thomopulos, the Chief Operating Officer of the Guardian said his newspaper never supported collecting the money from the government and did not receive any money.

Mr. Thomopulos said even though the Guardian incurred N450,000 loss as a result of the attack, it “stated categorically that we did not want any compensation.”

“Can you please explain how our name, Guardian newspapers, was part of the twelve (12) newspapers submitted to the Government for compensation?” he asked Mr. Smith in the mail.
“We are told that on the basis of the twelve names, the Association or some entity was paid N120,000,000.00.

“We share categorically that our stand remains the same, as it was in the beginning. Also we share categorically that the Guardian newspapers did not receive any money and did not ask for any money.”

Mr. Thomopulos did not say if the Guardian attended the NPAN Executive Council meeting of March 17; and an email seeking further clarification from him was not responded to.

By Mr. Thomopulos’ mail, the Guardian joins the list of other newspapers who have stated that they did not receive the N10 million.

The four other newspapers were African Newspapers of Nigeria (ANN) Plc, publishers of the Tribune titles; Peoples Media Limited, publishers of Peoples Daily; Daily Telegraph Publishing Company Limited, publishers of New Telegraph, Saturday Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph; and Independent Newspapers Limited, publishers of Daily Independent newspapers.

Mr. Smith had tried to explain why three of the newspapers were yet to receive the money.
“The cheques for the Nigerian Tribune and Peoples’ Daily remain in the Secretariat awaiting collection,” he said on Saturday.

“In the case of New Telegraph, the Secretariat was confronted with a situation where 13 Newspapers made claims while compensation for 12 newspapers was made. Blueprint Newspapers which was inadvertently omitted from the list has since been paid.

“When New Telegraph now demanded payment that had been collected by Blueprint Newspapers, the secretariat then brought the matter to the attention of the of the President, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, who then called Governor Orji Kalu , the Publisher of both the Sun Newspapers (who had been paid) and the New Telegraph (which has not been paid), to urge him to be patient for the matter to be tabled at the next Executive Council meeting, where he would seek the approval of the EXCO to take the funds earmarked for the Secretariat to pay them,” he said.

Mr. Smith is yet to respond to a PREMIUM TIMES’ enquiry on the Guardian’s stance.

The newspaper scandal came to the fore after Mr. Obaigbena, publisher of ThisDay newspapers, admitted receiving N680 million from Mr. Dasuki, who is accused of misappropriating over $2.1 billion while he was NSA; money meant to buy weapons to fight the Boko Haram terror group.

Mr. Obaigbena told the anti-graft agency, EFCC, that Mr. Dasuki paid him N670 million as compensation for the Boko Haram bomb attack on ThisDay office, and an additional N120 million on behalf of the 12 newspapers.

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