Integrity is a advantage the media can’t afford to play with. If the media toy with this all-important advantage, its dying is imminent.
I bear in mind this truth whereas contemplating the travails of Lagos State Home of Meeting Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, who will need to have fought many battles since 1999 when his political life started as a councillor in Agege Native Authorities Space.
However, maybe, none have been as relentless because the warfare being waged towards him by on-line information medium Sahara Reporters.
Since March, the media home has accused the speaker of laundering cash by means of contract scams. Obasa, a lawyer, has persistently denied the allegations and even warned the web site to recant and apologise, or face a libel go well with.
The allegations, which first surfaced on March 21, have been repeated the following day in a publication titled, ‘Uncovered: Speaker of Lagos Meeting, Obasa, Awards Contracts to self by means of Firm Registered in son’s identify’.
In it, the medium claimed, amongst others, that the speaker awarded contracts to himself by means of corporations registered within the names of his father, spouse and youngsters.
The report highlighted a listing of corporations it claimed the speaker had been utilizing to award the contracts and launder public funds.
It alleged that Obasa is the only real signatory to all of the financial institution accounts of one of many corporations De Kingrun Multipurpose Nigeria Ltd.
It didn’t take Obasa lengthy to reply. On March 23, he described the submit as faux information on his Twitter deal with @mudashiru_obasa and dared the web site to supply proof.
However that didn’t cease the web information medium. On March 25, it repeated a few of the claims in a publication ‘Unique: Tinubu, GAC again Lagos Meeting Speaker, Obasa, over suspension of lawmakers, corruption’.
The declare was additionally denied by the speaker.
In one other report on April 18, it claimed that Obasa illegally accredited and launched N45,700,000.00 quarterly to an organization; Messrs Bloggers Media for a non-existing quarterly media promotion.
Nevertheless it pulled down the report with the hyperlink: http://saharareporters.com/2020/04/18/exclusive-wasteful-spending-public-funds-lagos-assembly-speaker-obasa-approves-n475m.
A click on on the hyperlink now says web page couldn’t be discovered.
The web site adopted that up with one other report on April 26, titled ‘Lagos Speaker, Obasa, Will get N17m Month-to-month for Upkeep of Private Residence, Visitor Home’
Obasa, once more, wasted no time to reply and this time, he did formally by means of his lawyer Mr. Lawal Pedro SAN.
Pedro, in an April 30 response stated not one of the corporations talked about by Sahara Reporters had ever been engaged or awarded any contract by the lawmakers.
He demanded, on Obasa’s behalf, that Sahara Reporters writer, Omoyele Sowore, retract the story inside seven days and apologise, in any other case face a N1 billion libel lawsuit.
The letter, ‘Demand for retraction of defamatory statements revealed towards and in regards to the individual of Rt. Hon, Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa, and apology for the publication, reads partly:
“Upon our discreet inquiry we have been in a position to verify that the Home of Meeting has by no means at any time engaged or awarded any contract to any of the listed corporations within the publication.
“Subsequently, we discover the publication completely absurd, abusive, malicious, and quantity to irresponsible journalism to intentionally tarnish the picture of the Rt. Honourable Speaker of the Lagos State Home of Meeting (Our Shopper).”
Pedro stated though the lawmakers had already denied the “stated false and malicious publication on social media platforms” the web medium repeated the claims elsewhere.
In keeping with him, the publication had broken Obasa’s fame globally.
However the risk, Sahara Reporters didn’t cease publishing new allegations. On Could 11 and 13 it revealed two extra stories, the previous claiming the Speaker tricked a former governor of the state, and the second titled, ‘Group Petitions President Buhari, Nationwide Crime Company Over Gross Monetary Misconduct, Abuse of Workplace by Lagos Meeting Speaker, Obasa’ which merely repeated earlier allegations.
However, within the absence of proof and following previous allegations of underhand techniques by Sahara Reporters, observers could also be questioning if this isn’t one other sponsored marketing campaign towards the speaker.
Days in the past, the members of the Lagos State Home of Meeting described as baseless and deceptive the allegation that Obasa spends N17million month-to-month on upkeep of his residence and visitor home.
The clerk of the Home, Mr Azeez Sanni, who known as the eye of the lawmakers to the April 26 report defined that it was inaccurate.
Sanni stated: “The sum covers varied expenditure of the total workplaces; the Workplace of the Chief of Workers, Particular Advisers (Funds, Political Issues), workplace of the Chief Press Secretary, Particular Assistant (Protocol), Particular Assistant (Analysis and Improvement), Particular Assistant (Girls Affairs), and 15 Particular Assistants engaged to take care of the rising demand and specialty of the Home.
“I have to additionally state that this expenditure has been in existence previous to the emergence of Speaker Obasa. In truth, it’s dated again so far as 2012 when it was N27million month-to-month and I’ve the doc right here to indicate that the expenditure had been in existence since 2012,” the clerk stated.
He added that the report by Sahara Reporters was a deliberate try to tarnish the picture of the Home of Meeting, by the media outfit.
“On the allegation that the corporate was registered in 2015, how come the corporate in query was simply engaged in 2018?”, stated the clerk.
Whereas condemning the report, the lawmaker representing Somolu Constituency 1 and Chairman Home Committee on Finance, Hon. Rotimi Olowo, accused Sahara Reporters of unprofessional and unethical journalism.
In keeping with him, the media outfit was recognized for tarnishing model picture and inciting the general public by intentionally publishing deceptive stories.
Olowo added: “I imagine whether it is actually investigative journalism that the medium is practising, it ought to be capable of get the opposite aspect of the problem earlier than they rush to publish lies. The medium is understood to publish lies as they revealed lately that former Home of Representatives Speaker was late.
“However this one you’ll be able to actually see that the medium was telling lies as a result of now we have procurement legislation and there are procedures said by the legislation. If a contractor makes an overture to the Home for contract bidding, it’s not simply what he got here with however what the Home ultimately agrees. I bear in mind in 2012, I used to be a member of this Home and I bear in mind the quantity that was budgeted was N27m however when Obasa emerged as speaker he lowered it to N17million.”
“I feel Sahara Reporters must be cautioned because it has proven that no matter that’s giving them is revealed with out cross-checking. Mr Speaker, this Home has the ability to sue as a result of the lies by this medium is getting an excessive amount of,” stated Olowo.
Obasa defined that it was essential to appropriate the mistaken impression created by letting the general public know that the Home will not be reckless in spending and never recognized for frivolous expenditure.
He defined that the essence of saying the report at plenary was to debunk it as silence means consent: “As rightly put by the clerk, that is an expenditure that has been present earlier than 2015 and he has been in a position to hint some doc to 2012, 2013, 2014, so it exhibits Sahara Reporters and its co-travellers wouldn’t get anyplace and we’re not prepared to affix points with them. I agree with you that we don’t must waste our time on them. We stay resolute”, stated Obasa.
However Obasa’s rebuttals, observers can be watching to see whether or not Sahara Reporters will proceed its marketing campaign and who, if anybody, is behind it.
- Laguda, a public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos.