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Why unions are after me, NAN Managing Director opens up

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Lanre Babalola

Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Mr Bayo Onanuga, has explained the reason behind the false petition written against him by the four unions in the agency.

In a lengthy response to petitions written against him, Onanuga said some disgruntled and incompetent staff in the agency were simply trying to truncate the reforms he introduced to improve the operations of NAN.

He described the allegations as lies designed to block his re-appointment and called for a face-face meeting with his petitioners to substantiate their allegations.

He also welcomed an investigation of the allegations by the EFCC and the ICPC.

Read Onanuga’s full reply to the petitions written against him below:

RE: SAVE NEWS AGENCY OF NIGERIA (NAN) FROM EMINENT (SIC) COLLAPSE: PLEASE DON’T RE-APPOINT BAYO ONANUGA

Thank you the Honourable Minister for giving me the opportunity to respond to this defamatory petition of the four unions in the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

• I was shocked to read the allegations levelled against me by NAN Joint Union, an illegal creation of the four unions in the agency.

More shocking was the description of my tenure by the signatories to the letter as ‘the worst’ and I ‘the most corrupt manager in the history of the agency”.

• The descriptions are the most uncharitable, most wicked about about my three-year tenure.

• I recall my first day in NAN Headquarters on 25 MAY 2016. I was surprised when the lights were switched off at 10.am. I was told power supply would return at 2pm. I learnt this had been the practice for some years, because the agency did not have money to
buy diesel. I found this strange in a news agency that ought to run with 24 hour power supply. I provided N250,000 of my own money to the Technical Department to buy diesel and decreed that on no account must the agency be in darkness from 8am till 8pm daily.
This was sustained all through my three years.

• I embarked on cost-cutting measures, cutting allowances for the MD and other managers. I suspended burial and marriage grants later ruled as illegal by the Federal Government. I slashed the N200,000 imprest meant for my office to N50,000. I declined collecting DTA due to me when I made official trips to Lagos. The imprest was paid irregularly, even after the vast reduction from the N200,000 officially earmarked, thus making me spend personal funds for official duties. I regularly joked I must be NAN’s most austere CEO.

•Still as part of cost saving, I sometimes elected to travel economy class on few occasions I went on foreign trips, the latest being a fact-finding mission to Abidjan about the agency’s property.

While I beseech God to forgive my traducers, I have taken steps to seek legal remedy.

I will now respond to the allegations raised by the petitioners, along with the ones made by the faceless group, signed by a non-existing NAN staff, called Idris Bala.

APPOINTMENT OF SA:
1. Momoh: My predecessor had three SAs, one of whom I inherited. Then I appointed Momoh, being a long serving staff, who started in editorial and had run the agency’s subsidiary company, NAN Bizcom, before ending his career as director of administration.

  1. My second assistant, was Mr Joe Bankole, who also had spent long years in the agency and was specifically retained to help in the re-engineering of the Multimedia unit of the agency. The agency had invested a lot of money in training Bankole.

  2. Both were paid by government on downgraded level from 17 to 16. Bankole was fired last year after failing to organise the 40th anniversary of the agency.
    But why did unions wait till this moment to kick against Momoh?

NANBIZCOM

NANBizcom was set up as a limited liability company. The auditing of the accounts up till 2017 has been done. We are in the process of auditing the accounts for 2018 and are still owing the auditors for 2015-2017 audit, done under my watch. The Federal Auditors have perused our books before and not once was it raised that the income of NANBIZCOM should go into TSA.

NAN BIZCOM has accounts with Access Bank and Zenith Bank and is dependent on income from training and commercialisation of some of NAN assets, such as the Media Centre in Lagos. In 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, the last two years under my stewardship, the total
turnover generated by the company was as follows:
2017 – N14,666,100.
2016 – N13,760,158.
2015- N12,341,260
2014- N 24,947,840
Please note that the figures are not reflective of the monthly costs incurred in running, most especially the Media Centre in Lagos.

We are in the process of re-organising the company for better performance. Its key asset, Media Centre in Lagos has just been renovated. It was done by direct labour at a cost of about N7million. We got a quote of N22 million from a contractor before my management decided to adopt direct labour. (I attach some photos)

I am not aware that the income accruing to NAN Bizcom, a limited liability company, should be paid into TSA, as being alleged. It is simply wicked to accuse me of diverting the income to my personal use. The audited accounts will clear all issues around this.

AUCTIONING OF VEHICLES:

I inherited a lot of KIA vehicles guzzling money for repairs. It was in realisation of this that we requested for new vehicles under the Presidential Intervention Fund to replace them. I bought one of the auctioned cars: the six year-old car attached to me.

Other vehicles were sold to the managers and those who expressed interest, including one of the drivers in Lagos.

Due process was followed in the disposal of the vehicles, including approval of the Ministry of Works and an advert for auctioning placed by an official auctioneer. All records are available.

INTIMIDATION VIA CONSULTANTS:

I really do not understand what they meant that I was using consultants to intimidate staff.

First of all, I ran an open office all through my three years. Staff were free to seek audience with me. Last year, I called in retired directors to set the tests for promotion in all departments. Could these be the consultants they were complaining about?

One of the signatories to the petition, Suleman failed the last promotion exam. He wanted me to promote him, nevertheless. I refused. He now wants a pound of flesh.

As far as I know, all those who passed the tests were promoted. We also promoted those who fell on the borderline. Allegation of intimidation is baseless.

INTERVENTION FUND

In the unionists rush to crucify Bayo Onanuga, their accusation Number 5 was disjointed. I could not therefore figure out what they were alleging.

Suffice it to say that the Intervention fund for the election was used strictly for the purposes for which the fund was released. Fifteen Peugeot cars approved by government were bought directly from Peugeot Automobile after a waiver from BPP and approval of Federal Executive Council (FEC). 100 quality HP laptops were bought and 150 ipads and Samsung tabs were also bought as approved by BPP. All were distributed to reporters, editors and some members of staff in other departments. The records are there in the store.

Also Galaxy Backbone, a government agency which is our internet service provider was invited to upgrade NAN bandwidth as approved by Mr. President. Abuja headquarters which previously had 5 MBPS up and down was upgraded to 30 MBPS and Lagos with 1 MBPS was upgraded to 10 MBPS up and down. Galaxy Backbone can confirm. NAN SMS platform was also expanded. The books are always open to independent investigation. We welcome ICPC and EFCC.

TERMINATION/SUSPENSION OF STAFF

The appointments of two members of staff were terminated because they wrote fake stories. It is a capital offence in journalism for an officer to sit down in the comfort of his room to concoct stories. Five other officers, at various times, were suspended for similar offences. They were duly queried but Management was not satisfied with the explanation as their offences put the Federal Government and NAN in serious disrepute.

Three persons suspended in 2017, two of them, deputy directors, wrote a spurious story that the Federal Government had increased fees in tertiary schools, quoting a fake press release credited to an ASUU chairman in the University of Ibadan. The man denied issuing the press statement. NAN retracted the story and wrote a letter of apology to the ASUU official.

Due process was followed in the actions taken by management. Left to the petitioners, I should not discipline staff who crossed the yellow and red lines, including committing the capital offence of writing fake news.

NAN 40th ANNIVERSARY:

The 40th Anniversary of NAN was planned to hold in October last year but the organising committee made a shabby arrangement. The Board of Directors asked us to suspend the celebration. The donors were informed.

All the donations, about N5 million were kept with NAN BIZCOM as they were not revenue that should go into TSA.

For now, the money has been borrowed to renovate the NAN Media Centre in Lagos, believing the centre will make the money back. ( I attach the photos of the media centre, before and after our renovation)

N500M LIBEL SUIT

At this moment, there is no such libel suit against the agency. It exists in the imagination of the petitioners.

SABOTAGE:

The faceless group that calls itself CONCERN(SIC) STAFF OF NAN, accused me of sabotage, alleging that my PMNEWS breaks news before NAN. This is again groundless. PMNEWS subscribes to NAN and had been a subscriber for many years. PMNEWS also gets its news from a variety of sources.

The accusation is surprising and self-indicting to the faceless petitioners. NAN should break news as a news agency, not the other way round. Besides, I am neither the editor-in-chief nor reporter-in-chief of NAN and only help occasionally when stories are badly written.

But I thank the group for raising this matter.

Since my arrival in 2016, one unending campaign that I have waged was to get NAN journalists report news instantaneously. Subscribers complain constantly about shoddily written and edited stories. They complain about late news. More often NAN reports news five, six hours, even at 10 hours, after the event and when we do report, our stories compare poorly to the ones written by subscribers we serve. I had issued many queries. I had conducted many grammar clinics and brought in experts to help out. I appointed an Ombudsman. The efforts have not made the impact I wanted as the shoddiness continues.

This I must say is at the heart of the agency’s problems.

Many editorial staffers of NAN are simply not qualified to be in the newsroom, a problem caused by compromised recruitment of the past.

And because of the poor quality of news they produce, the agency is unable to attract many subscribers, especially outside the country. Subscribers to the agency’s SMS news alerts would have come across the shameful errors made by the journalists on a daily basis. Some NAN journalists can’t write correctly ‘Muhammadu Buhari’ or ‘Yemi Osinbajo’. Ignorance and incompetence, are so
deep seated, so palpable.

OFFICIAL INJUSTICE AND IMPUNITY:

They got their facts wrong. The editorial chiefs, who I suspect, wrote the second faceless petition, want vehicles personally allocated them, against the government rules. We do not even have such luxury now. Vehicles are now in the pool.

RECRUITMENT/NAN AS A FAMILY BUSINESS:

I have only conducted one recruitment exercise since I joined NAN. An approval was given by the government for the employment of 52 persons, as replacement for departed staff. An examination was conducted and the best were recruited. To use Trumpian language, NAN had never before assembled such high quality recruits in one fell swoop, in its recent history. Management is today proud of the quality of staff employed. They are the future of NAN. I do not regret engaging them.

Last year, a decision was taken to review allowances paid to corps members, IT Students and my official driver. The allowances have been in place for more than six years.

I had no nephew that came to serve in NAN.

GENERAL COMMENT

In all, I see the petitions as an attempt to rubbish the good work I have done in the agency. I am ready for a probe. The EFCC or ICPC should be invited to check the records.

Since I assumed duty as Managing Director, I have never dipped my hands into the Agency’s coffers. I have demonstrated financial discipline by reducing waste, all because I believe the agency must survive first to fulfil its core business of news gathering and distribution.

All the past three years, the unions have never accused me of financial impropriety. It is painful that at the end of my tenure, they suddenly cooked up the malicious and actionable allegations.

All records are available to support my submission and I hope the signatories to the petition will be ready to defend their libellous allegations.

The lies are designed to block my re-appointment. I wish them good luck.

I believe the petitioners are afraid of impending reforms in the Agency and are doing everything possible to thwart efforts to make NAN compete favourably with its peers.

I attach a summary of my achievements in the past three years.

I also suggest that the Honourable Minister call the signatories to a meeting on Monday, to discuss the allegations. I need to confront them face-to-face.

SIGNED
BAYO ONANUGA

Nigeria

Gov AbdulRazaq urges youths to shun drug abuse, other vices

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Gov AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara has called on Nigerian youths to shun drug abuse and other vices that could hinder them from realising their lifetime ambitions.

AbdulRazaq made the call on Wednesday when he received members of the state chapter of Scouts’ Association of Nigeria (SAN), led by its Commissioner, Deacon Olabisi Afolayinka, at the Government House, Ilorin.

The governor, who recalled, with nostalgia, his days as a scout boy in Capital School, Kaduna, said that the organisation had contributed immensely to nurturing youths to become good citizens and contribute to the development of the country.

“This is an association that prepares youths on how to be good citizens and how to relate with their fellow countrymen.

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“These are virtues that the youth of today should maintain. In our own days as youths, there were no rampant cases of drug abuse,” he said.

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The governor urged the youth to use their energy for productive ventures and join the organisation to make positive contributions to society.

AbdulRazaq, who was made the organisation’s Ambassador of Peace, promised to live up to expectations by giving necessary support to the body through relevant government agencies.

Earlier in his remarks, Afolayanka said that the constitution of the body automatically made the governor of any state its patron and the president grand patron.

He commended AbdulRazaq for the audience granted the association, saying that this was the first time any governor would be hosting them in the state in the last 21 years.

Afolayanka said that the association was founded to build young boys and girls to make useful contributions to the country.

The SAN commissioner noted that cultism and other vices were not rampant in schools in the past when the scouts held sway.

He urged the governor to continue to support the association for effective discharge of its responsibilities in the state.

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Nigeria

NYSC: Bwari assures Corp members improved welfare

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The Chairman of Bwari Area Council, Mr John Gabaya has assured members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) of his administration’s readiness to improve on their welfare.

Gabaya gave the assurance when representatives of the FCT NYSC Secretariat, and some members of the NYSC 2019 Batch B’, paid him a courtesy visit on Wednesday in Abuja.

Gabaya, who appreciated the team for the gesture, said that it was the duty of the council, as host of the NYSC Orientation Camp in the city to ensure it gave the Corps maximum support.

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He acknowledged the fact that the camp in Kubwa, was faced with infrastructure challenges, adding that efforts would be made to amendments it and bring succour to the corps members.

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“The council, in its capacity, alongside the management of the scheme, would meet and discuss how it would make the development feasible including our best effort to add a little raise to their allowance,” Gabaya said.

Earlier, the NYSC FCT Coordinator, Mrs Waleeda Isa, said the visit was to acquaint its officials with the new administration of the council as host of the orientation camp.

Isa decried the sorry state of infrastructure at the NYSC camp, saying “their lodge in the camp is dilapidated and needs attention”.

“Also, it would go a long way for those who serve under the council, if your administration can kindly add a little to their allowance to augment what the Federal Government is giving them.

“We will be honoured if you make these efforts so that we feel your presence and know that you have us at heart,” she said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the NYSC 2019 Batch B’ corp members have reported and would be inaugurated at the orientation camp on Aug. 22.

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Nigeria

Lagos govt boosts MCC services in Eti-Osa Tribune Online

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THE Lagos State Government says it has completed yet another Maternal and Childcare Centre (MCC) located in Eti-Osa Local Government Area of the state to increase residents’ access to qualitative maternal and child healthcare.

The state Commissioner of Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, made this known on Wednesday in Lagos during an advocacy meeting with community leaders and residents of Badore.

Abayomi was represented by the Director of Projects, Ministry of Health, Dr Olusola Oduwole.

He said that the continuous implementation of strategic maternal child survival interventions, policies, programmes and projects by the government was geared toward the reduction of maternal and child mortality in the state.

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According to him, the local and national statistics of maternal and child mortality and morbidity rate are of utmost concern to the government hence, the adoption of various strategies to combat it.

“One of these strategies is the construction of MCC, a specialised healthcare centre for mothers and children.

“It is aimed at taking maternal and child healthcare closer to the people by reducing the travel time and improving the quality care to the highest possible standard,” the commissioner said.

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Abayomi said that the MCC was located on Ogombo Road along Abraham Adesanya Estate in Eti-Osa local government area.

According to him, the facility is a four-floored 110-bed complex designed to respond to maternal and child health issues.

“It will provide quality services for the restoration, improvement and promotion of the health and well-being of women, babies and children in the local government area and adjoining communities.

“It has two theatres where surgeries can be done; consulting rooms; treatment rooms, antenatal and postnatal wards; baby nursery; pharmacy, laboratory and offices, among others,” he said.

Abayomi said that the construction of MCCs in the state was designed to stem the tide of maternal deaths which occurred as a result of delivery by unskilled birth attendants, haemorrhage, infection, obstructed labour and malaria, among others.

He said that women should not die in the course of life procreation process.

“The concept of the construction of MCCs was mooted with the conviction that these interventions will impact positively on the health indices of our mothers and children who constitute a significant percentage of clients attended to at public health facilities.

“The Eti-Osa MCC will commence operation before the end of the week and will serve as a referral centre to all primary health facilities in Eti-Osa local government and accompanying communities.

“It will yield the much desired and anticipated impact towards the reduction of maternal and child mortality in the area,” the commissioner said.

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Nigeria

Psychiatric resident doctors vow to continue strike %

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THE Association of Resident Doctors, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, has resolved to continue its ongoing indefinite strike demanding for optimal mental healthcare for patients.

The President of the association, Dr Afeez Enifeni, said in a statement on Wednesday, in Lagos, that the strike would continue until the management addressed the work experience of the overworked doctors.

Enifeni said that the doctors had on Aug. 19 held a meeting to review the current industrial action.

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The doctors accused the hospital management of being insensitive to the plight of the in and outpatients, who according to him, are receiving suboptimal mental health services.

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“The hospital management has blatantly refused to replace the annual exit of resident doctors for the past four years.

“Instead, they have let patient load and clinical work increase significantly for hapless resident doctors whose health and academic pursuits have suffered irreparably.

“In light of the above, the management’s insistence on employing only five locum doctors is highly provocative of our demands.

“It hardly improves the status quo which already puts overworked resident doctors at the brink of academic failure, health challenges and malpractice suits,” he said.

He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the hospital’s management to do the needful in line with the administration’s next level agenda.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the resident doctors had embarked on an indefinite strike on July 31 over non-employment of more resident doctors at the hospital.

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Nigeria

AIDS: Society says self-stigma more destructive than HIV/AIDS

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THE Coalition of Civil Society Network on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (COCSNHAN) on Wednesday said that self-stigma was more destructive to people living with HIV than the disease.

Mr Ikenna Nwakamma, first Co-chairman of the society, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that it was the major reason people living with HIV default from treatments.

Nwakamma, who called for the incorporation of mental health services in the national HIV programme, said it was imperative to rescue patients from the dangers of self-stigma.

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“Very important, the issues of self-stigma is hardly talked about and that is even more destructive; it is the major reason people living with HIV default in their treatment,” he said.

The society’s co-chairman explained that mental health would make people living with HIV become co-managers of their health.

According to him, mental health problems among people living with HIV is the new epidemic and we must deal with it squarely.

Nwakamma restated the plans of the society to set up a monitoring system that would capture and report cases of stigma and discrimination in health facilities.

He promised that any identified case would be used to send a strong warning to others.

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