*Says supply of 15 Hilux vehicles for the Presidency doesn’t exist
*‘PUNCH was notified of falsehoods in the story but still published’
*Get prepared to face Abba Kyari in court – FG
*Mainstream media resorting to fake news – Minister
*Buhari’s family also targeted – Adesina
By Kemi Kasumu, General Editor
“What is even more surprising is the decision by the newspaper to run the cooked up lies despite obvious loopholes in the story, such as the Bureau of Public Procurement’s denial that a major source for the story was a member of their staff. With a slew of crucial elections ahead, some politicians and their media agents appear to be working together to build pressure on the Buhari administration by wielding non-existent scandals against it.”
Barely 48 hours after it was knocked for denigrating the Office of the President of the country with report linking the Nigerian leader, Muhammadu Buhari, with “violent herdsmen” in parts of the country, a Lagos-based print media, PUNCH, is again been enmeshed in another issue of “improbable and outlandish” publication.
The Presidency was on Thursday September 6 reported in the news to have been displeased by “the wicked and unfounded conclusion” by PUNCH that President Muhammadu Buhari was sympathetic to the activities of violent “herdsmen”, and has been indifferent to their atrocities.
The dismissal was contained in a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, according a report by The DEFENDER through which the Presidency said from the views, news and opinions of the Punch Newspaper it was now obvious that facts are being twisted to tag anybody with Fulani blood a terrorist and therefore must be stripped of his rights as citizens, but called on members of the media community to exercise restraint from such misleading reporting activities for the good of the larger society.
“We reject The Punch newspaper’s September 4th, 2018, editorial which alleged that President Buhari had sympathy for criminality perpetuated by a misguided group. The editorial was not only disrespectful of the President and his office, but was also reckless, thoughtless, inflammatory and totally irresponsible.
“It is steadily becoming clear from the views, news and opinions of this newspaper that it will explore every opportunity and twist every fact to declare every Nigerian and ECOWAS member with Fulani blood a terrorists, who must be stripped of their rights as citizens, or worse subjected to ethnic cleansing,” the Presidency, expressing its displeasure with the newspaper, had said.
Barely 48 hours after, another such report, still targeted against the personality of the President considered to be Fulani man by the media organisation that has more cries of Muslims and a section of the country poured towards than any other media outfit, came this time alleging the Chief of Staff to the President, Alhaji Abba Kyari of having collected a N29 million bribe for the award of a contract.
The Presidency, in a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Mallam Garba Shehu copy of which was sent to The DEFENDER on Saturday, took offence to the publication it described as “cooked up lies” that the Punch Newspaper went ahead to publish, surprisingly, despite obvious loopholes in the story.
“The Presidency takes strong offence to the improbable and outlandish publication by Punch Newspaper today (Saturday) in a dig at presidential aide Abba Kyari who was alleged to have collected a 29 million naira bribe for the awarding of a contract.
“We wish to state with full authority that the allegation is wrong and the Chief of Staff did not have any private meetings with the person making those allegations.
“What is even more surprising is the decision by the newspaper to run the cooked up lies despite obvious loopholes in the story, such as the Bureau of Public Procurement’s denial that a major source for the story was a member of their staff. With a slew of crucial elections ahead, some politicians and their media agents appear to be working together to build pressure on the Buhari administration by wielding non-existent scandals against it,” the statement exposed the media organisation.
It added that, “We equally note that the supply of 15 Hilux vehicles for the Presidency was an unlikely contract to have been awarded, as it did not exist anywhere in the 2016 and 2017 budgets.
“Checking the appropriation for 2016 and 2017, that request is not even there. How could Abba Kyari have asked for money to award a contract that did not exist anywhere at all?
“In addition to that, the amount allegedly given in bribe was also suspicious, as the office of the presidential aide had been known in the past to receive imprest of 200 million naira and above every month, with no one expected to give account.
“It was only since Abba Kyari occupied that position that things changed.
“In blunt terms, it is difficult to make a case of N29 million bribery against an official who spurned a monthly payment of N200 million to his office, money for which he didn’t need to account to anyone.
“Once again, we wish to caution against the media’s haste to publish unverified accusations against government officials simply for the sensationalism value, without journalists doing the due diligence required of them by their profession.
“The Punch was notified of the various falsehoods contained in the allegations but still went ahead to publish the weak accusations. They should be prepared to face Abba Kyari in court,” the statement concluded.
Mainstream media resorting to fake news – Minister
It will also be recalled the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Thursday, apparently referring to the activities of Punch Newspaper against the government, said the media is free to criticize the President but not to denigrate him or his office. The Minister said this in Abuja when he visited the Peoples Daily Newspapers, in continuation of the advocacy for the National Campaign Against Fake News, which was launched in July.
He said that in the rush to de-market the President and his government, some mainstream media platforms had now resorted to the use of uncivilized language to denigrate the person and office of the President.
“In fact, fake news has taken another dimension. Now, it is not uncommon for otherwise respectable media organisations to accuse the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria without backing up their accusation with an iota of evidence. The latest of such occurred two days ago, when a newspaper wrote an editorial in which it resorted to the use of uncouth language to denigrate the President on the farmers-herders clashes and other issues.
”In their eagerness to de-market the President, they forget that the President is the living symbol of the nation, and that by denigrating him, they are denigrating the country, including themselves,” Alhaji Mohammed said.
Buhari’s family also targeted
The efforts to run down the Muhammadu Buhari Administration, it was gathered, has not stopped at publication of frivolous and fictitious allegations against presidential but also has been extended to the immediate family of the President.
On Wednesday, the Nigeria’s Presidency in a statement by Special Adviser to the President Chief Femi Adesina alerted members of the public over what it described as impersonation of son of the President, Yusuf Buhari, on social media Instagram.
According to the statement, “It has been observed that social media accounts are being run in the name of son of the President, Yusuf Buhari.
“The most recent is an Instagram account @ymbuhari, which has attracted thousands of followers, and which has been used to express opinions in Yusuf’s name without his knowledge.
“This is to inform the general public that Yusuf Muhammadu Buhari is not on any social media platform. The public is therefore, advised to disregard such handles and pages, while those perpetrating the illegality are advised to stop forthwith, as it amounts to impersonation.
“The same advice goes to those running other pages and handles impersonating other members of the family of the President.”