Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture was a guest of Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria, NPAN in Lagos where he solicited for the cooperation of the media owners in the on going war against corruption. The meeting is coming just as dust is yet to settle on the compensation received by members of the association from the past government over damage to their publications by the security. Former president Goodluck Jonathan had approached NPAN to settle out of court the feud emanating from the seizure of publications of thirteen newspaper houses by security men who claimed that they were acting on intelligence reports that the newspaper vans were carrying weapons for insurgents.
The association decided to take the matter to court on behalf of its members, but the then government sought for out of court settlement. Though the sum of N10 million was considered inadequate to make up for the losses of each of the media houses some of which staff were also brutalized, they, in deference to the president, agreed to settle out of court and then received the compensation. But the new government in its investigation for monies allegedly misapplied by Sambo Dasuki, former national security adviser, discovered that the N120 million paid to the NPAN as compensation for its members was from the security vote. Some of the members decided to return the money to NPAN, following embarrassing reports that they were beneficiaries of the slush money from the state coffers. It is not known what step the association will take next, though it had defended its decision to take the compensation for members in the first instance. The issue appears to have also caused some bad blood among member companies, with some suspending their membership.
And though no war was declared, the development may have created a cold war between the NPAN and the government. Is the minister’s visit an attempt to pass the message that the government made the categorization in error? He did not make any categorical statement on the probe that sought to implicate the NPAN, but in what appeared to be a reference to that face off between the government and the association, the minister said there was no attempt to intimidate anybody.
Mohammed also debunked reports that he accused media managers of being hostile to efforts by the Muhammadu Buhari government to fight corruption. The minister informed his audience that government will soon launch a campaign to be tagged ‘Change Begins With Me’. This, according to him, will compliment on going campaigns on security awareness and corruption.
Nduka Obaigbena, president of the association led some other proprietors to receive the minister.
He told Mohammed, “We will help you fight corruption because it is antithetical to development”. He, however, suggested that the war against corruption would be better fought if the government builds strong institutions that will endure. The publisher of This Day newspaper also told the minister that it will be unjust to lump people together and label them thieves.
Obaigbena was supported by two former presidents of the association, Olusegun Osoba, former governor of Ogun state and Ray Ekpu, a founding director of Newswatch. Also present were two veterans who are life patrons of the association; Ismaila Isa, publisher of The Democrat and Sam Amuka-Pemu, publisher of Vanguard. Nosa Igiebor, president, TELL Communications Ltd, publishers of TELL Magazine and Kabiru Yusuf, chairman of Media Trust, Comfort Obi, general secretary of NPAN and publisher of The Source as well as Sam Nda-Isaiah, president of Leadership were among publishers at the meeting.Follow Us on Social Media