Petition by NAN Unions: My Hands Are Clean- Onanuga

Petition by NAN Unions: My Hands Are Clean- Onanuga

Sunday, May 26, 2019 10:59 pm


Bayo-Onanuga

• Says he’s ready for a probe; EFCC or ICPC should be invited to check the records

Mr Bayo Onanuga has reacted to a petition written by four labour unions in the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) (seeking immediate probe of the out going managing director of the agency), saying it is the most uncharitable, most wicked about his three-year tenure.

The petitioners raised issues around the following: Agency In Darkness, Appointment Of Sa, Nanbizcom, Auctioning Of Vehicles, Intimidation Via Consultants, Intervention Fund, Termination/Suspension Of Staff, Nan 40th Anniversary, N500m Libel Suit, Sabotage, Official Injustice And Impunity, Recruitment/Nan As A Family Business. Mr Onanuga responded to them one after the other.

Generally, Onanuga saw the petition as an attempt to rubbish the good work he has done in the agency, saying emphatically that he is ready for a probe. In other words, the EFCC or ICPC should be invited to check the records. In his words: “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 fulfill 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.”

He added: “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 the past three years. I also suggest that the Honourable Minister (of Information) call the signatories to a meeting on Monday, to discuss the allegations. I need to confront them face-to-face.”

Onanuga reacted further that he met the agency almost comatose and he ran it with financial prudence, denying himself and his office of his entitlements, brutally cutting costs, all to ensure that it survives and fulfils the mandate for which it was set up 43 years ago. He added that the agency had spent in 18 months N85million on creating a website before his arrival and N7.5m yearly on internet hosting. Onanuga revealed that he created three websites with less than N1.7m and paid less than N2m, about $5,000 every year for hosting at pagely.com. “What a corrupt CEO I had been!” Said he.

AGENCY IN DARKNESS:

” 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.

On NANBIZCOM, the NAN MD wrote:
“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 N22million 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.

On his alleged “TERMINATION/SUSPENSION OF STAFF”, he reacted:
“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.”

Concernig the issue of “INTIMIDATION VIA CONSULTANTS,” he has this to say:
“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.”

The petition was jointly signed by Haruna Suleiman, Chairman Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE); Collins Yakubu Hammer, Chairman Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ); Ogechi J. James, President Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporations and Government Owned Companies (SSASCGOC) and Daniel Akaphiare, Chairman, the Radio Television Theatre and Art Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU).

Below is Mr Onanuga’s full reaction to the petition and Summary Of His Achievements (MAY 2016 – MAY 2019)

• 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 my three-year tenure.

I met the agency almost comatose and I ran it with financial prudence, denying myself and my office of my entitlements, brutally cutting costs, all to ensure that it survives and fulfils the mandate for which it was set up 43 years ago. The agency had spent in 18 months N85million on creating a website before my arrival and N7.5m yearly on internet hosting. I created three websites with less than N1.7m and paid less than N2m, about $5,000 every year for hosting at pagely.com. What a corrupt CEO I had been!

AGENCY IN DARKNESS:

• 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.

AGENCY IN DARKNESS, APPOINTMENT OF SA,

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.
2. 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.
3. 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 N22million 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 N5million 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 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
……………………………….

NEWS AGENCY OF NIGERIA
SUMMARY OF ACHIEVEMENTS (MAY 2016 – MAY 2019)
(BAYO ONANUGA, MD/CEO)
MAY 2019
A SUMMARY OF MY STEWARDSHIP AND REFORMS EXECUTED AS MANAGING DIRECTOR, NEWS AGENCY OF NIGERIA (2016 – 2019

INTRODUCTION
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) will celebrate its 41st anniversary on October 2, 2019 as Africa’s foremost wire service.
It has been quietly undergoing re-engineering to reposition it for the challenges of the 21st century and be compliant with world’s best practices.
Even in the most trying times, largely occasioned by dearth of funds, the reform embarked upon by my Management has permeated all the departments, most especially The Editorial Department, our core business.
ACHIEVEMENTS
Ended the Anonymous Journalism being practised by NAN journalists for decades. News stories and features now carry bye-lines.
Strengthened staff competence and skills by organizing various training programmes, including training by Google, Code for Africa, National Bureau of Statistics, Premium Times, FAAPA etc.
The various training sessions have enabled the agency set up Infographics & Data Unit. We now do data journalism hitherto unknown to the agency.
NAN used to have one omnibus website for subscribers and free readers, which made the agency’s news accessed free. My management has separated this: we now have www.nan.ng for free readers and www.newsroom.nan.ng for subscribers.
The effort has boosted subscription and revenue has increased from N120 million to N154 million in 2018, despite the difficult environment.
My management also galvanized the agency into Multimedia Production. A full- fledged Multimedia Unit, well equipped both in Abuja and Lagos now churns out video and audio for subscribers.
In addition, we have created a website for photographs (multimedia.nan.ng) through which subscribers now access our photos. In the past, subscribers got photos via e-mail.
Our plan is to integrate videos, infographics in the portal to enhance revenue. We believe the Agency’s future lies here and that we are moving towards harvest
SMS SERVICE: Our agency ran an SMS News Alert Service before my arrival. Now we are expanding the service, with the target of reaching over 500,000 subscribers and vastly improve the revenue of the agency. We are on course to achieving this goal.

NAN PRWIRE WEBSITE: This is also the creation of Management. It is a website that aggregates press releases and statements of organisations, government and private. The service is paid for by corporate subscribers.

NOTE: Management created several websites in line with global best practices and to generate fund.
INTERNET
Galaxy Backbone – Management through the Presidential intervention fund expanded its internet bandwidth this year. Abuja office bandwidth was expanded from 5 MBPS up and down to 30 MBPS up and down. Lagos too was expanded from 1 MBPS up and down to 10 MBPS up and down. This has improved the speed of internet connectivity and made journalists’ work seamless.
STATE OFFICES
Relocation of state offices to federal and state secretariats to cut rental costs. This has been done in Rivers, Nasarawa and Gombe.
Commercialisation of state offices in Lagos, Makurdi, Kano, Enugu to reduce our expenditure on running and maintenance costs.
YOLA OFFICE
Management reconstructed the Yola office in 2017 and paid N20 million to acquire the land from its original owner. The case had lingered for more than 20 years until our resolution. We are hoping to build a Media Centre here.
EXTERNAL OFFICES AND HOUSES
My Management just completed the renting out of the Agency’s houses in Abidjan (Cote d’Ivore) and Johannesburg (South Africa). The houses were lying fallow for several years following the closure of foreign operations except in New York.
NAN MEDIA CENTRE
We just completed the renovation of an all-purpose event centre in Lagos. It is run by a business arm of the Agency, NAN BIZCOM.
NANBIZCOM

NAN Bizcom is a subsidiary of the Agency set up about 10 years ago to generate much needed funds for the Agency. It runs the media centre in Lagos and properties of the Agency that are commercialised.
NAN Bizcom has just been re-organised with the appointment of a new General Manager with a fresh mandate to embark on various business development initiatives.
We are about recruiting from within the complement of staff to realise the management’s vision. The results are already showing as the renovated centre is attracting more patronage and bringing in more revenue.
NAN MUSEUM
Management has set up a museum. The museum is to showcase the telecommunication equipment dating back to when NAN started operation 41 years ago.
The Managing Director’s passageway was converted to house the museum.
The equipment recovered from states have been put in place. The commissioning is scheduled for June.
The museum, a place of history will attract visitors to NAN.
PUBLICATIONS UNITS
This is a new creation. It is charged with publication of NAN Magazine, special projects, research into inventions, year book, etc. It is headed by a Director. The unit aims at making money for the Agency. And it will interface with the NAN BIZCOM and the Marketing department.
VEHICLES/MOBILITY
Management has provided new Peugeot cars as utility vehicles, courtesy of presidential intervention fund.
Fifteen of such were purchased and distributed to all the departments and zonal offices.
The old KIA brands bought in 2014 were, except two (one Rio with NANBizcom and CERATO with Finance and Accounts) have been auctioned to save the agency costs of maintenance.
TOOLS
Management has distributed laptops and recorders, tablets thrice to staff, mainly in editorial department since 2016, with the latest being the distribution of 100 laptops and 140 ipads and Samsung tabs.
ICT/TECHNICAL SERVICES

The department plays crucial support role in the operations of the Agency. It created and now runs the NANPRwire website.
The Agency is fully dependent on Galaxy Backbone as Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Abuja, Lagos, Enugu, Ibadan and many parts of the country.
Galaxy backbone recently upgraded the Agency’s internet capacity in Abuja and Lagos. Abuja was upgraded from 5MBPS to 30MBPS up and down while that of Lagos was upgraded from 1MBPS to 5 MBPS. This cost the Agency N21 million. We were able to pay for the upgrade, courtesy of a presidential intervention fund.
TRAINING
This shall be a major focus of my Management under a new term. We hope to give our staff a new orientation to see their jobs beyond the vistas of the civil service.
The training of staff is a continuous process because management is aware of the critical need for manpower development.
Reporters and Editors, key functionaries are being continuously exposed to various training in the use of modern ICT multimedia tools.
Management facilitated training on data journalism, Analytical and fact check training Google and Code for Africa. NTA is about to commence training of multimedia staff on video recording and editing. We are also in talks with the federal government owned training schools to secure training for other staff.


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One Comment

  • Batili Ashabi says:

    Those accusing Mr Onanuga of corruption must be amongst the most uninformed set of individuals I ever saw. They’re also obviously misguided and too academically lazy to research into his antecedents. Mr Onanuga would rather die than have his reputation tarnished by such a crime.

    No doubt these ones must have found his due process/no nonsense stance not a bit discomfitting hence their evil plan to smear his good image.

    The man should seek redress in the courts to teach these misguided elements a lesson.

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