Nduka Obaigbena, the chairman & editor-in-chief of THISDAY Newspapers, has confirmed receiving federal funds from the former National Security Adviser, Retired Col Sambo Dasuki.
But he says that rather than being “suspicious funds”, they were “payments for compensation to mitigate” ThisDay’s losses in the twin Boko Haram bombings of their offices in Abuja and Kaduna on April 26, 2012.
The claims are contained in a letter to the chairman of the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in response to an invitation to him by the commission in the course of its invitation of some allegedly looted funds.
Obaigbena, who explained that he is “currently in the United States of America on my way back to Nigeria to honour your invitation,” said he received three payments of “N150,000,000 + N150,000,000 and N250,000,000 respectively” in August, November and February 2014. It is unclear whether the first two payments were made in 2012 or in 2013; or if all of those payments were in 2014; or why they needed to be staggered.
He further stated that two other sums of N100,000,000 and N20,000,000 were received in March 2015 for the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and 12 newspapers (sic) who “demanded compensation for the brutal and unlawful seizure of newspapers and stoppage of circulation by armed soldiers in Abuja and several cities,” explaining that as President of the NPAN, it was his duty to lead media leaders to hold discussions with President Goodluck Jonathan to avert a class action lawsuit against the Armed Forces and the federal government.
Obaigbena said that President Jonathan was reluctant to set a precedent in the case of ThisDay, but appeared to buckle under pressure.
“I had to confront President Jonathan on the issue when I learnt of approvals for the reconstruction of the Abuja United Nations Building, since we were the second major organisation to be attacked by Boko Haram after the UN attack.
“He therefore directed me to meet the National Security Adviser who processed the 3 payments in question.”
The newspaper and NPAN chief did not explain if ThisDay, NPAN and the other newspapers who were compensated advocated only for themselves, or whether they put similar pressure on the government to compensate other Nigerians and businesses, including schools and places of worship that have been attacked by Boko Haram.
Mr. Obaigbena revealed that 12 newspapers were given N10 million each in March after soldiers seized newspapers in Abuja. The Economic and financial Crimes Commission told SaharaReporters that Mr. Obaigbena ought to appear before the agency to explain why the former NSA paid N670million in his company-General Hydrocarbon Ltd-a company to which Mr. Obaigbena and his wife are directors. The NSA paid N670million into a GTB account controlled by Mr. Obaigbena stating it was payment for “Energy Consultant” according to court filings against the former NSA.