The Newspapers Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) on Thursday dissociated itself from the alleged unlawful diversion of $2.1 billion meant for the procurement of arms by the immediate National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki.
The Group in a statement released after an expanded executive meeting of the association said that the N120million it received from the office of the NSA under Mr. Dasuki was compensation for seizure and disruption of newspapers circulation by security forces between June 6 and June 8, 2014.
The organisation said since the office of the NSA covers security matters, it did not consider receiving the compensation from it, as unusual.
“Member newspapers that received money, could not have any suspicion why it was paid from the office of the former National Security Adviser since the onslaught on newspapers was carried out by the security forces over which the office of the NSA, to some extent, superintended,” the statement released after the meeting and signed by the association’s deputy president, Kabir Yusuf, and general secretary, Comfort Obi, stated.
The revelation that the association’s president, Nduka Obaigbena, received N120 million to be shared by 12 newspapers whose circulation were disrupted has caused some wrangling within the association with some of the listed beneficiaries distancing themselves from the payment.
The Sun newspaper, which said it was paid only N9 million, said it refunded the payment to NPAN after the source of the money became clear, and that it was talking legal action to get payment for its losses during the military siege on newspapers.
Last Friday, the Punch newspapers said it was suspending its membership of the NPAN following the revelation that “the sum of N120 million was disbursed in murky circumstances to some member-companies of NPAN, ostensibly as compensation for the losses they incurred in June 2014 when armed soldiers seized newspapers and newspaper distribution vans”.
Just like Mr Obaigbena explained in a letter responding to the invitation of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission over the matter, NPAN stated that the 12 affected agreed to collect the money instead of challenging the seizure of their paper in court and actually submitted claims of losses they incurred.
“Amidst this tension, and perhaps to stem the spate of multiple litigation against the security agencies and the Federal Government, the then President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, decided to hold a meeting with the executives of NPAN on June 12, 2014, at the State House, Marina, Lagos. At this meeting, the president apologised for the infraction of press freedom and the disruption of the business rhythm of our members,” the statement read.
“This was well received by our members. In recognition of the president’s gesture, one of our executive officers, Lady Maiden Ibru, spoke in favour of the Association dropping the demand for compensation. But because some members wanted to seek redress in court, it was decided to pursue a civil resolution of the matter.
“The Federal Government and the NPAN agreed to settle the matter out of court. In consequence of this, members were requested to submit a statement of their losses for consideration.
“All active member newspapers submitted their claims, with some as low as a few hundred thousand Naira and others running into hundreds of millions.
“With no easy way to verify these widely divergent claims, the Association leadership accepted the offer from the government, of a flat rate of N10 million to each of the 12 media houses affected. The total amount came to N120 million.
“Having suffered a lot of harassment during the military era, with some cases still winding their way through our courts, members agreed to a reasonable settlement over prolonged confrontation.
“Most of our members duly collected the compensation in good faith. Meanwhile, the cheques for The Guardian, Tribune and Peoples Daily, are still with our Secretariat.
“Member newspapers that received money, could not have any suspicion why it was paid from the office of the former National Security Adviser since the onslaught on newspapers was carried out by the security forces over which the office of the NSA, to some extent, superintended, it explained.
According to the statement, the following members of NPAN attended the meeting:
Sam Amuka Life Patron, NPAN
Ismaila Isa Life Patron, NPAN
Segun Osoba Past President, NPAN
Ray Ekpu Past President, NPAN
Kabiru Yusuf Deputy President/ Chairman, Media Trust
Comfort Obi General Secretary/ Publisher, The Source Magazine
Maiden Ibru Treasurer/ Publisher, Guardian Newspapers
Sam Nda-Isaiah Chairman, Leadership Group
Nwadiuto Iheakanwa Ex-officio member/ Group Managing Director, Champion Group
Idi Farouk Chairman, New Telegraph Newspapers
Gbenga Adefaye GM/Editor-in-Chief, Vanguard Newspapers
Alexander Thomopulos Chief Operating Officer, Guardian Newspapers
Ted Iwere Managing Director, Independent Newspapers
Nosa Igiebor President/CEO, Tell Communications Limited
Eniola Bello Managing Director, This Day Newspapers
Funke Egbemode Managing Director, New Telegraph Newspapers
Toke Alex-Ibru Executive Director, The Guardian Newspapers
Ayo Arowolo Editor-at-Large, This Day Newspapers
Feyi Smith Executive Secretary, NPAN