The publisher of ThisDay newspapers, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, has denied collecting any illegal money from former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki.
The publisher was one of the people fingered as the beneficiaries of the sum of $2.1 billion meant for acquisition of arms but was allegedly mismanaged by the former NSA.
Prominent Nigerians already fingered in the arms deal scandal include the Chairman of DAAR Communications Limited, Chief Raymond Dokpesi; former Sokoto State governor, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa; former Director of Finance at the Office of the NSA, Mr. Shuaibu Salisu; former Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Tony Anenih, and Senator Iyorchia Ayu, among others.
Explaining his role in a letter he addressed to the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Obaigbena admitted collecting a total sum of N670 million from the office of the former NSA, N550 million of which he said was compensation for the Kaduna and Abuja offices of ThisDay newspaper burnt by Boko Haram insurgents on Thursday April 26, 2012.
The balance of N120 million, Obaigbena, who is the President of Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), said, were compensations for the various newspaper houses whose bundles and copies were seized at different locations by security agents in the middle of last year
Giving details of his company’s losses in the burning of its Kaduna and Abuja offices, Obaigbena recalled that “four innocent Nigerian lives were lost, our buildings (were) destroyed and we lost full colour Goss printing towers and three pre-press computer-to-plate and auxiliary equipment and other (in)valuable property valued at over N2.5 billion.
“This is aside from daily costs to pay third party printers of over N1 billion, having lost our printing facility to terrorists due to inadequate protection by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“The bombing of ThisDay offices followed the Abuja United Nations Building bombing for which the Federal Government has so far spent N3 billion for reconstruction and much more earmarked for furnishing.”
He recalled that 12 newspapers had demanded compensation “for the brutal and unlawful seizure of newspapers and stoppage of circulation by armed soldiers in Abuja and several cities.
“As President of the NPAN, it was my 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 of Nigeria.”
He added: “On both occasions, President Jonathan said he did not wish to lay precedence and in our case, he specifically said there were many victims of Boko Haram.
“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 three payments in question.”
Obaigbena, who said he was writing from the US, said he would be making his way to Nigeria to meet the EFCC chairman if the latter required further information.