The list of villains in Armsgate is lengthening with the names of more media owners. Some mainstream newspaper publishers have joined Raymond Dokpesi of AIT/RayPower in the hall of infamy.
While Dokpesi has admitted he received N2.1billion, Nduka Obaigbena, ThisDay publisher and president of the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), has accepted he received N670million from former NSA Sambo Dasuki.
Obaigbena said N550million was compensation for the bombing of his paper’s premises by Boko Haram while N120million was for 12 newspapers whose copies were seized by soldiers. The newspapers listed are ThisDay, Vanguard, Daily Sun, The Nation, New Telegraph, Daily Trust, Peoples’ Daily, LEADERSHIP, Daily Independent, Nigerian Tribune, The Guardian and Business Day.
But Tribune, Independent, Telegraph and Peoples’ Daily have denied receiving a dime. The Guardian too has disowned Obaigbena, adding that it lost about N400, 000 to the purported disruption of circulation of its copies in 2014.
The NPAN secretariat issued a statement on Saturday explaining why some have not received their N10million. It said: “Our attention has been drawn to statements issued last night by newspapers claiming that they did not receive the compensation for the military disruption of circulation of newspapers by the federal government. It should be recalled that the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) executive council meeting of March 17, 2015, held at the offices of Daily Trust, Abuja, resolved to accept the N120million compensation and passed two other resolutions thereto: (1) that each member-organisation accepts to donate N1million from the compensation to the association for the up-keep of the secretariat; ‘2) that members should bring their membership account current, by paying all past dues to the secretariat before collecting their cheques.
“The cheques for the Nigerian Tribune and Peoples’ Daily remain in the secretariat awaiting collection. 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, 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.”
Nobody has been deceived by the publishers’ attempts to explain away the unethical conduct. Likely, they were bribed to campaign for and defend the PDP candidates in the March elections. It is the same thing that Dokpesi did.
The Office of the National Security Adviser is not known to be a political party’s paying agent. The money Dasuki got was for the anti-terror war. Besides, if compensation was to be paid, many ask, why were those widowed and orphaned by Boko Haram not paid first?
In the weeks ahead, more big fishes are likely to get hooked as the EFCC continues its search for looters of Nigeria’s common wealth.