As the $2.1 million arms fund controversy continues to rage, the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, said it never received any money from the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
The National President of the body, Garba Deen Mohammed, made this known in a statement on Wednesday.
Following the controversy generated by the N50 million donated to the body by former President, Goodluck Jonathan, the NGE president said it was necessary to clarify the circumstances surrounding donation.
According to him, the NGE had on April 10, 2015, held a fundraising dinner at the Transcorps Hilton Hotel, Abuja, to raise N850m for the construction of a befitting secretariat in Abuja, to be called The Editors Plaza.
“It was a public event, attended by several dignitaries among them federal cabinet ministers, state governors and captains of industry or their representatives,” said the NGE president.
“Former President Goodluck Jonathan was invited to the event at which he was represented by the former Minister of Information and National Orientation Mr. Labaran Maku.
“At the event, Mr. Maku, among other donors, publicly pledged N50million as the federal government’s contribution towards the building project. Indeed the announcement of this donation has been on the website of the NGE since April 12, 2014; and is still there for those who may wish to verify.”
Shortly after the event, he said the Federal Government redeemed its pledge through a direct fund transfer into the Zenith Bank account of the NGE.
He stated categorically that neither Femi Adesina, who was the president of the Guild at the time nor any other official of the body collected cash from the government.
Mr. Muhammed further said the funds the NGE collected during the fundraiser have so far been invested in two projects.
These include the purchase of a property at No. 24, Mojidi Street, Off Toyin Street, Ikeja-Lagos which has been named “The Editors House,” and payment of compensation, clearing and fencing of a 5, 600 square meter piece of land at Guzape, Abuja, which is the site of the proposed Editors Plaza.
Continuing, he said, “In Lagos, we have since commissioned a team of engineers and architects for the purpose of renovating the property, a twin duplex, preparatory to our moving in hopefully in the first quarter of 2016; while in Abuja, we have already commenced the process of obtaining a building permit from the authorities of the FCT preparatory to the groundbreaking ceremony for the Editors Plaza building later in the year 2016.
“It is regrettable that an earlier statement by the Guild on the anti-corruption war of the government of President Mohammadu Buhari may not be unconnected with recent attempts to drag the Guild into a matter in which it has no case to whatsoever to answer.”
Mr. Mohammed thanked Nigerians, friends of the NGE, its founding fathers and media organisations that called to check out the claim that the body received part of the $2.1 million arms funds.
He assured the public that the NGE would continue to remain a responsible and accountable professional group.
The president of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN, Nduka Obaigbena, had on Monday suggested that the NGE collected N50 million from the Office of the National Security Adviser.
Mr. Obaigbena, who is also chairman and editor-in-chief of Thisday newspaper, revealed this in a letter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, dated December 30, 2015.
The EFCC had last December invited the NPAN president in connection with the ongoing probe into the $2.1 billion arms procurement fund allegedly misappropriated by the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
Mr. Dasuki, alongside some top officials of the Peoples Democratic Party, and other former senior officials are currently being investigated for allegedly receiving the arms fund.
In his letter to the EFCC, Mr. Obaigbena explained that it was not only his company and NPAN that received funds from the ONSA, saying the NGE also received money for its secretariat complex.
While the Nigerian Guild of Editors has called for the probe of the arms procurement scam, the NPAN president indicated that the editors also collected N50 million cash from Mr. Dasuki’s office.
“Even when he (Dasuki’s aide) suggested that The Nigerian Guild of Editors – NGE – who are now calling for a probe – was paid N50,000,000 cash by the ONSA when President Jonathan donated to the building of the NGE secretariat, I still refused to collect cash,” Mr. Obaigbena said.
“And in any case, I had no independent confirmation the Nigerian Guild of Editors had collected cash.”
Mr. Obaigbena argued that there was no way NPAN could have known which subhead the funds were paid from.
He argued that the media practitioners could not know or speculate which line item the spending was made from by the ONSA.
The NGE had some weeks ago issued a statement urging the federal government to thoroughly investigate the controversial payments made to Mr Obaigbena, a call that appeared to have irked the Thisday publisher.