The N120m to NPAN: This is our story
AS a matter of policy, The Guardian does not join issues with any institutions, associations or persons on matters that concern us as an organisation. Because we sit in judgment over matters of state and all issues of public interest, it is rightly the public’s expectation that we, too, must be accountable and must hold ourselves ready for scrutiny in all our affairs and prove that, like Caesar’s wife, we are above board. Therefore, the brouhaha which has ensued in the wake of revelations that some money had been paid to some newspapers was not totally unexpected.
One of the subjects trending in the public domain today is thus the issue of compensation said to have been paid to newspapers through the association of proprietors. It behoves us to clear the air as the subject concerns The Guardian regarded as the flagship of the Nigerian Press in discerning and critical circles that constitute the readership of the quality newspaper genre.
The Newspapers Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) held a meeting with the then President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, on 12 June 2014. In attendance were a couple of life patrons of the association whose experience and wisdom the NPAN has always gratefully found invaluable. At the meeting the NPAN raised the point about disruption to circulation of their products by soldiers ostensibly and strangely tracking arms trafficking through newspaper vans. Huge losses, predictably, were incurred in circulation and advertisement revenue in consequence of the disruptions in several parts.
On the occasion, our chairman, Lady Maiden Alex-Ibru, expressed appreciation for the presence of the President in person. Speaking to the issue, she urged the President to see to it that such disruption to newspaper business does not occur again. Turning to her colleagues, she unequivocally spoke against compensation for newspapers and pleaded with them to let it pass. This did not go down well with many of her colleagues. Not even with the intervention of the President could they be dissuaded. Dr. Jonathan, touched by the argument of Mrs. Ibru, in his genial way, wondered why other newspapers would not go along with her on the matter. Those who wanted compensation, however, carried the day.
In furtherance of her stance what The Guardian lost in the unfortunate Army clampdown in a democratic order, communicated to the NPAN, was N450,000 all things considered, which made any claim for compensation by us all the more unwarranted. That was on 15 July, 2014. This was followed with a letter two days later in which we made our position clear. The communication was sequel to a meeting at which every newspaper was asked to file claims.
Our understanding was that the computation of the losses would enable the NPAN to know what the losses came to in total. Consistent with our practice within a week our auditors already knew what our loss was. In general it came to N2.6million including agency fees and sundry expenses. The NPAN was accordingly advised. After we computed the actual which came to N450, 000 we similarly advised the secretariat and withdrew the computation of N2.6 million. In a letter dated 17 July 2014, we stated categorically that we would not need the N10 million compensation. Since July last year nothing was heard either from the NPAN secretariat or its leadership until the controversy broke out two weeks ago. We wish to state clearly that The Guardian was not a beneficiary of any compensation, nor were we at any time interested.
May we also state that at no time during the NPAN meeting held on 05 May, 2015, with Governor Dickson of Bayelsa State in attendance did our Executive Director, Mr. Toke Alex -Ibru collect any cheque nor did he ask for any. Contrary to the impression that may have been created, no cheque was presented to him. He could not, therefore, have left on a table a cheque that he did not collect. He did not also leave with the governor as was claimed in certain quarters undoubtedly seeking to impugn the high standing of The Guardian in our country and outside of our shores. In fact, according to proceedings of the meeting that day, Mr. Ibru had left with some members of the NPAN, among them Mr. Dan Agbese, before the governor rose. Indeed, the executive secretary of NPAN, Mr. Feyi Smith, on Monday, 21 December, 2015, sent an apology to The Guardian for the misrepresentation.
The Guardian wishes to make it plain that she will not compromise her accustomed legacy of high-mindedness, honour and integrity, and the pursuit of wholesomeness – those intrinsic and extrinsic values for which our readers have invested their trust in The Guardian, believing the same to be the foundation stones on which a great nation is built. It is a trust we will not take for granted.