The publisher of ThisDay Newspapers, Nduka Obaigbena, has debunked The Guardian Newspaper’s claim that it did not request compensation for loss the newspaper incurred following the June 2014 military clampdown on newspapers.
The Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN, had confirmed a statement by its former chairman, Mr. Obaigbena, that N120 million he received from the embattled former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, was meant for 12 newspapers including Guardian.
The NPAN, in a statement on Saturday by its Executive Secretary, Feyi Smith, said the association agreed at a March meeting to distribute N10 million each from the N120 million to the 12 newspapers affected by a military clampdown on print media in June 2014 during the Goodluck Jonathan presidency.
However, in an email to Mr. Smith, Alexander Thomopulos, the Chief Operating Officer of the Guardian, said his newspaper never supported collecting the money from the government and did not receive any money.
Mr. Thomopulos said even though the Guardian incurred N450,000 loss as a result of the attack, it “stated categorically that we did not want any compensation.”
“Can you please explain how our name, Guardian newspapers, was part of the twelve (12) newspapers submitted to the Government for compensation?” he asked Mr. Smith in the mail on Saturday.
But a thread of mails seen by PREMIUM TIMES and exchanged between Messrs. Obaigbena and Thomopulos on Sunday showed the Guardian actually filed claims for compensation.
Reacting to the Guardian’s claim that it neither requested nor received any amount as compensation, Mr. Obaigbena drew Mr. Thomopulos’ attention to a mail titled “UNSOLD GUARDIAN NEWSPAPERS RECORDED DURING THE MILITARY CRACK DOWN ON NEWSPAPERS ON JUNE 6 & 7, 2014” which the former sent to Mr. Smith, NPAN Executive Secretary on July 15, 2014.
Accordingly, Mr. Obaigbena reproduced Mr. Thomopulos’ mail which read: “Please find below our estimate for compensation for June’s crack down on the Media, as received from our Head of Circulation totalling, N2,668,500.00.”
But in a swift response, Mr. Thomopulos wrote back that the July 15 mail was a reply to Mr. Smith’s earlier request.
The mail read: “PLEASE RECALL THAT Mr FEYI SMITH ASKED ALL OF US, VIA VARIOUS EMAILS, TO SEND IN OUR CLAIMS.
“2. THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPERS WROTE FEYI SMITH A LETTER (AS THE SECRETARY OF NPAN) AT THE BEGINNING OF THE MATTER THAT, ALTHOUGH WE INCURRED ACTUAL LOSS OF N450,000, WE STATED CATEGORICALLY THAT THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPERS DID NOT WANT ANY COMPENSATION. THIS WAS IN BLACK -AND-WHITE.
“3. OUR LETTER WAS NOT BECAUSE WE DID NOT NEED THE MONEY, BUT OUR STAND WAS STRICTLY BASED ON THE PRINCIPLES, POLICIES AND PHILOSOPHIES OF OUR LATE FOUNDING CHAIRMAN, Dr ALEXANDER U. IBRU. IN OTHER WORDS, IF Dr ALEX IBRU WERE ALIVE TODAY, WHAT DECISION WOULD HE HAVE TAKEN OR INSTRUCTED US TO TAKE?? THE DECISION WE TOOK IS THE DECISION Dr IBRU WOULD HAVE TAKEN OR WOULD HAVE INSTRUCTED US TO TAKE.
“4. ALL said and done, as the saying goes, I believe, our official letter to Mr Feyi Smith OVERRIDES EVERYTHING, regardless of what Toke said or did not say, etc. Feyi Smith should have known this, AND I MUST SAY HE CAUSED ALL THIS MESS AND HE MUST TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY.”
But Mr. Obaigbena insisted the Guardian was indeed part of decision to file claims for compensation.
In his counter response, he said the Guardian through its Executive Director, Toke Ibru, participated in all the meetings at which the issue of compensation was discussed without objection.
“Mr Toke Alex Ibru – your Executive Director -represented The Guardian in all the final meetings this issue of compensation was being discussed,” Mr. Obaigbena told Mr. Thomopulos.
He added that “He never objected or asked that The Guardians name be removed from the list of compensation – especially at the Meeting of March 17, 2015 where we collectively took the final decision to accept the compensation – not because of the value of the money but of the principle on not having newspapers subjected to any military harassment given past history.”
Mr. Obaigbena also explained why Guardian was yet to collect its share of the N120 million.
“When we hosted the Bayelsa Governor, Mr Toke Alex Ibru asked for the Guardian’s cheque and as the meeting progressed, it was produced for him but he went away with the Bayelsa Governor and forgot to pick it up.”
“He then followed up with calls to Mr Feyi Smith who promised to send the cheque to him. After all of these why would we have the impression that The Guardian was not interested in collecting the check after filing a claim for N450M. Indeed, the first I heard of the military clampdown of newspapers at distribution centres was from your Managing Director, Mr Eluem Emeka Izeze and along with Kabiru Yusuf we called an emergency meeting that faithful day in Abuja…. the rest as they say is history.”
He emphasised that “we do have minutes of all the meetings Mr Toke attended.”