The Nigerian Tribune, a newspaper owned by the family of late Nigerian political sage, Obafemi Awolowo, has fired a senior reporter, Olakunle Timothy Taiwo, for concocting an interview with Itse Sagay, a constitutional lawyer, and scholar.
The paper’s Managing Director/Editor-In-Chief, Edward Dickson, confirmed Mr. Taiwo’s sack in response to a text from SaharaReporters. SaharaReporters correspondent had sent a text asking the MD to confirm the authenticity of information that the paper was about to issue an apology to Mr. Sagay and to formally retract the report based on a non-existent interview with the legal scholar.
In a widely circulated report in the paper’s online edition, Mr. Taiwo claimed that Mr. Sagay had reportedly berated President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war. However, in an interview yesterday with SaharaReporters, Mr. Sagay, who chairs President Buhari’s advisory team on anti-corruption, denied that he granted any interview to the reporter or the Tribune. He also challenged the reporter and newspaper to provide proof that he spoke to them.
The Tribune’s MD said he was at the newspaper’s annual general meeting and, therefore, could not offer further comments on the forged report. However, another source at the paper told SaharaReporters that an editor had also been fired early today over the same scandal.
The Nigerian Tribune is one of the newspapers named as beneficiaries of a payout from funds that were meant for the purchase of weapons to fight Islamist insurgent group, Boko Haram. The revelation of a widespread dole-out of cash to media groups, including the Tribune, is part of a growing financial scandal involving former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (ret.). Mr. Dasuki is accused of diverting more than $2 billion budgeted for the purchase of weapons for the Nigerian military. Much of the looted defense funds were then shared among officials of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for campaign purposes.
In addition, Mr. Dasuki funneled billions of naira to Raymond Dokpesi, proprietor of African Independent Television (AIT), and Nduka Obaigbena, owner of ThisDay newspaper. Mr. Obaigbena also became the alleged conduit for distributing cash to at least 12 newspapers, according to findings by agents investigating the NSA’s illicit disbursements of defense funds.