By Yemi Adebowale
The management of ThisDay Newspapers Group has denied claims by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that it received “suspicious funds” from the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), during the tenure of Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd).
In its response to a letter of invitation from the EFCC dated 8th November 2015, which was received in its Abuja office on the 8th of December 2015, the management of ThisDay Newspapers stated that all funds received from the office of the NSA “are payments for compensation to mitigate the dastardly Boko Haram twin bombings of the ThisDay Newspapers offices in Abuja and Kaduna on Thursday April 26, 2012.”
The newspaper’s management said during the attack, “four innocent Nigerian lives were lost, our buildings destroyed and we lost full colour Goss printing towers and three (3) pre-press Computer-to-Plate and anxiliary equipment and other (in) valuable property valued at over N2.5 billion.”
The letter written in response to the EFCC invitation and signed by Prince Nduka Obaigbena, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of ThisDay Newspapers Group and dated December 9, 2015, stated further that N150,000,000 + N150,000,000 and N250,000,000 respectively were received in August, November and February 2014 “as compensation to mitigate the dastardly Boko Haram twin bombings of its offices in Abuja and Kaduna on Thursday April 26, 2012, during which four innocent Nigerian lives were lost, its buildings destroyed.
Obaigbena said further: “We lost full colour Goss printing towers and three (3) pre-press Computer-To-Plate and anxiliary equipment and other (in)valuable property valued at over N2.5 billion. This is aside from daily costs to pay 3rd 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.”
The ThisDay Newspaper Chairman, who is currently in the United States of America and on his way back to Nigeria to honour the EFCC invitation stated further in the letter to the Executive Chairman of the EFCC that the subsequent N100,000,000 and N20,000,000 received in March 2015 was for The Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and 12 newspapers “who demanded compensation for the brutal and unlawful seizure of newspapers and stoppage of circulation by armed soldiers in Abuja and several cities.”
He said that as the 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.”
Obaigbena 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.
“Please find attached a copy of our letter to President Jonathan as well as correspondence with the then NSA on the Newspapers’ payment. I will make my way to Nigeria to meet with you should you require further information.”
Shortly after the Boko Haram attack on ThisDay newspapers premises, Obaigbena wrote a letter to former President Goodluck Jonathan dated July 26, 2012 on behalf of the Board, Management and Staff of the Newspapers, demanding for compensation from the federal government,
In the letter titled: Twin Bombing of ThisDay Newspapers: The Need for Compensation, and made public for the first time yesterday, Obaigbena thanked Jonathan for visiting the remains of the premises housing ThisDay newspapers in Abuja.
He stated further: “Your visit must have afforded you the opportunity of seeing firsthand the utter devastation of our premises – the first attack of a major organisation by Boko Haram soon after the attack on the Ahuja Headquarters of the United Nations. During the attack, four lives were lost mainly of contractors and retailers around our premises, with scores injured around the back entrance gate from where a suicide bomber in a car drove an Isuzu SUV through the back utility gate and detonated his bomb around 10:30 am, after production and circulation, when few of our staff were on the premises on Sector Centre B, Jabi Business District, Jabi, Ahuja- opposite the Jabi Central Motor Park. Had the bombings happened a few hours earlier, or even a few hours later, during the peak of production, about 150 Abuja staff including journalists, printers and other staff may have been affected.”
The ThisDay Newspapers Chairman intimated Jonathan of the company’s huge loss (with facts and figures) put at over N2.5 billion, including a fully automated Goss Printing Towers complete with full accessories “valued at $3,000,000, with a replacement value of $5,000,000 USD.”
The loss also included the massive destruction to the entire ThisDay building in Abuja “which will cost about N750,000,000 to N1,000,000,000 to bring down and reconstruct.”
“Mr. President, even as we did not directly lose any of our staff members, it is important that the Federal Government takes immediate care of the families of the dead and of the injured. Today marks exactly three months after the dastardly bombing of our premises, kindly take action to mitigate our losses, Mr. President. Please be assured of our high esteem and continued loyalty to The Federal Republic of Nigeria,” concluded Obaigbena in the letter to Jonathan.