Covering N5M fraud, Edo government redeploys NUJ Chairman
By: Omede, James Samuel, Benin City
The last has not been heard of the Edo state government-aided fraud committed by suspended nine journalists of the Nigerian Union of Journalists in Edo State.
N5million bribe, which was termed ‘parting gift’ was allegedly paid by former Governor Adams Oshiomhole to nine journalists without appropriation and illegally.
The N5M bribe generated a lot of controversy and Urhokpota Reporters broke the news to the world, although initially the NUJ denied the report but pressures from the public, and some irate journalists many of who thought the “parting gift” should have been for all journalists and not select nine, led the NUJ to act.
Swiftly, an emergency Congress of the NUJ suspended the nine culprits which included the Secretary of the Union, Mr Alemma Aliu Ozioruva.
The APC government in Edo State led by Godwin Obaseki tried desperately to bury the stubborn story but the Chairman of the Union, Comrade Roland Osakue who is a staff of the state owned newspaper, The Nigerian Observer, stood his ground and vowed that the culprits must by punished.
Apparently embarrassed by the continued hard stance of Comrade Osakue on the matter, Edo state government decided to get at the NUJ chairman to pressure him against fulfilling his promise of taking the matter to the anti graft agencies for investigation.
Weekend, Mr Osakue got an order of immediate redeployment from his repertoire desk to the Production Desk. In the Production desk he won’t have the time to continue his huge work at the NUJ, thus a prelude for his being removed from his post as NUJ Chairman and eventual sack for ‘dereliction’ of duty”.
The redeployment of Comrade Osakue was ordered by the State Information Commissioner, Mr. Paul
Ohonbamu who, investigation reveal, was pressurized by the office of the Secretary to the State Government to act.
Ostensibly, the order is coming from the governor on whose desk all the buck of the state governance and grievances must stop and who has been embarrassed by the controversy while he is away in faraway Malaysia.
The Edo state government’s action is coming days after Chief of Staff to Gov Obaseki, Mr. Taiwo Akerele visited the NUJ Press Centre and pleaded in vain with the journalists to cover the fraud.
Akerele’s visit was followed by a layman letter from one Victor Oshioke, who claimed to be a media aide to the ex-governor, who declared that the N5million was part of state funds given to the nine in their personal capacities.
Oshioke’s letter, which tended to indict the government of favouritism and bribery, had barely gone to rest when the Deputy Governor of Edo state, Mr. Phillipe Shaiuabu, apparently incensed by the indiscretion of the letter writer in his choice of indicting words, went to the NUJ promising to give the Union the N5million. This, it was gathered, was an attempt to browbeat some NUJ exco members into reversing the decisions of Congress to punish the nine suspended journalists for fraud, which will invariably indict the former governor. But this came too late.
Shaiabu’s CPS, Mr Musa, at a meeting in his office thereafter tried to coerce the Edo state Council of the NUJ and Exco members of the Correspondents Chapel, into reversing their decision on the fate of the nine.
Also another Commissioner, Mr Emma Usoh, tired to lobby the journalists but the chairman was adamant, who vowed to make a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Sensing that this fraud that generated a raging and polarizing crisis among the journalists in the state, the government through the former governor, was reported to have reached out to the National Secretariat of the NUJ to intervene in the matter.
Acting on a petition from the nine alleging ‘unfair treatment and lack of due process’, the National Secretariat of the NUJ advised the state council to allow the Suspended nine appear before the union’s Ethics and Disciplinary Committee, a backyard tactics to water down the suspension.
The committee began sitting last week even as the suspended nine vowed not to appear.
Meanwhile information available to Urhokpota Reporters is that, despite the union’s backyard Ethics and Disciplinary Committee sitting is underway, to prepare a report which will be presented to the Congress to debate and act on, the Correspondents Chapel has concluded plans to conduct a fresh Election for a new Exco.
“We will remove Osakue by every means possible and heaven will not fall” one of the suspended nine told Urhokpota Reporters in strict confidence.
Some NUJ members have allegedly petitioned the EFCC, which is neighboring the NUJ Press Centre in Benin City, alleging “criminal conspiracy”, by the nine suspended journalists to convert state funds into personal use” and they allegedly accused the government of complicity and duplicity.
This latest redeployment by the government is seen by political watchers as part of measures to pressure Osakue into reversing the Congressional decision against the suspended nine members ncluding the council Secretary, Mr. Aliu Ozioruva, a freelance journalist with The Guardian, who got impeached in the process.
Those suspended indefinitely by the Edo state Council of the NUJ Congress, for sharing the N5million are Adekunbi Ero of TELL, Anthony Osauzo of The Sun, Otabor Osagie Friday of The Nation and Adobe Augustine of This Day.
Others who were also suspended by the Correspondents Chapel of the Union where they were officials are Ehis Igbaugba of the News Agency of Nigeria, Patrick Ochoga of Leadership, Cajetan Mmuta of New
Telegraph and the loquacious Egbebulem Simone of Vanguard who was the conduit between the government and the journalists during the better-forgotten regime of profligacy, waste, bribery and corruption headed by Adams Oshiomhole.
The EFCC is expected to determine whether there is a crime involved with the ex-governor approving state funds for the personal
benefit of journalists as his media aide claimed in a letter to the National Secretariat of the NUJ, Abuja.
A can of worms has just been opened and more is expected in the coming days.