The attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has been drawn to an advertorial by the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, which appeared in a number of newspapers including Leadership andThisday, today June 19, 2017. The advertorial, tiled, Statement of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN and signed by Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, was unsparing in its condemnation of the so-called invasion of the Sun Newspaper by the EFCC on June 12, 2017. It claims the Commission’s presence at The Sun was an affront on freedom of expression of the media especially journalists on the stable of The Sun.
Despite the well publicized explanation by the EFCC that its presence at The Sun was meant to verify the current status of assets that are the subject of a subsisting interim forfeiture order, that the order was never vacated in spite of the so-called appeal, NPAN was sweeping in its conclusion that “the manner of the invasion tends to suggest that the EFCC was out on a self-help mission, a voyage to intimidate journalists, criminalise journalism and cower free speech”.
While it is normal for an association to protect the interest of its members, NPAN’s defence of The Sun is suspicious. Indeed, it rankles to see NPAN elevate the propaganda of The Sun to the level of truth, without any attempt by it to verify the true situation from the EFCC. It would appear that the union and those hiding under its umbrella are more interested in vilifying the Commission than any claim to protecting the interest of publishers and practitioners of journalism profession in Nigeria. In particular, the President of NPAN, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, has been weeping more than the bereaved as far as The Sun’s episode is concerned. Not only has he granted interviews to lampoon Magu and the EFCC, he has syndicated feature stories and advertorials in several newspapers to condemn the Commission and its leadership. Those who are not familiar with the relationship between the EFCC and Mr. Obaigbena may be inclined to believe that he was actually pursuing the interest of a member of his association. But that is far from the case.
Since the Commission released him on bail after he was arrested and detained over the investigation of the mega sleaze in the Office of the National Security Adviser under Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), Mr. Obaigbena has not missed any opportunity to denigrate the EFCC and its leadership. He has deployed his media platforms as the official organ for all the anti- establishment forces baying for the blood of Magu and the EFCC.
If the EFCC has committed any sin against Obaigbena and some members of NPAN, it was in carrying out its statutory mandate of fighting corruption and ensuring that impunity was checked. It is no secret that some NPAN members are yet to forgive the Commission for the money recovered from them in the course of the ONSA investigation.
Nigeria is bigger than any individual and NPAN must be mindful not to allow members to hijack its platform to pursue personal interests.
The Commission is in no way averse to criticisms but such must be constructive and not meant to serve the selfish interests of corrupt elements in our society.
Head, Media & Publicity
19th June, 2017