The Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, has vehemently denied allegations that it collected any money from the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
Mr. Dasuki is currently undergoing trial in three separate courts sitting in Abuja over his alleged diversion and misappropriation of $2.1 billion meant for arms purchase to wage the war against Boko Haram insurgency.
The National President of the Guild of Editors, Garba Deen Mohammed, in a statement on Wednesday, reacted to the controversy generated by the recent revelation that the body received N50 million donation from former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The President of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN, Nduka Obaigbena, had on Monday suggested that the Nigerian Guild of Editors was a beneficiary of a N50 million cash donation from from the Office of the National Security Adviser.
Obaigbena, who is also chairman and editor-in-chief of Thisday newspaper, made the allegation in a letter he wrote 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, of which N120 million and over N500 million was traced to have been paid to Mr. Obaigbena.
Justifying the payments in a widely publicized letter he wrote to the anti-graft agency, the media mogul said N120 million was compensation to 10 newspaper publishing houses, whose distribution vans and newspapers were impounded by soldiers in 2014 on claims of national security. The over N500 million, he explained, was compensation from the federal government to Thisday for the bombing of its offices in Abuja and Kaduna in 2012 by Boko Haram Terrorists.
Some newspapers mentioned to have been beneficiaries of the N120 million compensation have since denied knowledge of the funds just as few that acknowledged receiving payment, have offered to make a refund.
But in his December letter to the EFCC, Mr. Obaigbena explained that it was not only his company and NPAN that received funds from the ONSA, saying the Nigerian Guild of Editors also received money for its secretariat complex.
While NGE 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”, he said.
“And in any case, I had no independent confirmation the Nigerian Guild of Editors had collected cash”.
But the NGE national president in the statement issued yesterday clarified the circumstances surrounding the said N50 million donation.
According to him, the NGE had on April 10, 2015, held a fundraising dinner at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, to raise N850m for the construction of a befitting secretariat in Abuja, to be called The Editors Plaza.
“It was a public event, attended by several dignitaries among them federal cabinet ministers, state governors and captains of industry or their representatives”, said the NGE president.
“Former President Goodluck Jonathan was invited to the event at which he was represented by the former Minister of Information and National Orientation Mr. Labaran Maku.
“At the event, Mr. Maku, among other donors, publicly pledged N50million as the federal government’s contribution towards the building project. Indeed the announcement of this donation has been on the website of the NGE since April 12, 2014; and is still there for those who may wish to verify”.
Shortly after the event, he said the Federal Government redeemed its pledge through a direct fund transfer into the Zenith Bank account of the NGE.
He stated categorically that neither Femi Adesina, who was national president of the Guild at the time and now Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, nor any other official of the NGE collected cash from the government.
Mr. Muhammed further said the funds the Nigerian Guild of Editors collected during the fundraiser have so far been invested in two projects.
These include the purchase of a property at No. 24, Mojidi Street, Off Toyin Street, Ikeja-Lagos which has been named “The Editors House”, and payment of compensation, clearing and fencing of a 5, 600 square meter piece of land at Guzape, Abuja, which is the site of the proposed Editors Plaza.
Continuing, he said, “In Lagos, we have since commissioned a team of engineers and architects for the purpose of renovating the property, a twin duplex, preparatory to our moving in hopefully in the first quarter of 2016; while in Abuja, we have already commenced the process of obtaining a building permit from the authorities of the FCT preparatory to the groundbreaking ceremony for the Editors Plaza building later in the year 2016.
“It is regrettable that an earlier statement by the Guild on the anti-corruption war of the government of President Mohammadu Buhari may not be unconnected with recent attempts to drag the Guild into a matter in which it has no case to whatsoever to answer”.
Mr. Mohammed thanked Nigerians, friends of the NGE, its founding fathers and media organisations that called to check out the claim that the body received part of the $2.1 billion arms funds.
He assured the public that the Nigerian Guild of Editors would continue to remain a responsible and accountable professional group.