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Another Journalist comes for Nicholas Ibekwe…says N50k was a honorarium not bribe

Read journalist Femi Owolabi’s incisive and different argument below…

Sometime in February, at an interactive session– in Ikogosi Warm Springs Resort– with Kayode Fayemi, governor of Ekiti State, one of the participants– as many raised-hands jostled—was picked by the moderator to ask the governor his question. Nicholas Ibekwe, he would announce as his name. With an aura of confidence, he added, “I work with Premium Times.” His voice carried so much energy and his question[s] was punchy.  Nicholas appeared as the pugnacious type. You would notice this immediately he began to talk, gesturing more frankly.  Where I sat, a close distance to his seat, I nodded in admiration. This guy should replace one of those journalists who babysit Goodluck Jonathan during the presidential media chats. It is not certain if Goodluck will survive Nicholas.

There was something I was going to ask Nicholas after the session.
A month earlier, Nicholas’ Premium Times published an investigative report, Inside Nigeria’s Ruthless Human Trafficking Mafia. It was a report that overwhelmed one with sadness. A few days later, however, critical observers began to expose the faults in the story everybody had bought. The most vocal of these observers was the literary critic, Ikhide Ikheloa. “This story is a faabu,” Ikhide, on his Twitter and Facebook timelines, screamed morning, day, and night.  He would eventually produce an article, Tobore Ovuorie’s story: Fact or fiction? The critical pieces of evidence Ikheloa provided in that piece to suggest the story a fiction, are too weighty to be discarded. He ended with the line; ‘There are many reasons to confront this story, its veracity being the least, but still a crucial reason to deal with it. The credibility of a nation is pretty much gone, but once our journalists lose their credibility, it is all over.’
Day in, day out, Ikheloa would not relent. In every of his Facebook post, he pulled out the Managing Editors of Premium Times– Dapo Olorunyomi and Musikilu Mojeed– by the nape of their neck, to apologize to Nigerians for publishing what he called a fake story.
Later that evening in Ikogosi, as participants trooped to the poolside, where we go to lounge, I hastened my movement to meet Ibekwe who was ahead.
“Someone is discrediting an investigative report by Tobore Ovuore, one of your reporters at Premium Times,” I opened the conversation with Nicholas after we had exchanged handshakes. “He calls your bosses out every day in his Facebook mentions to whip them. I don’t like the way Ikhide is going about; rubbishing your newspaper which had become a household name, being a reliable news source.”
I needed a point from Nicholas (the man I had seen as a no-nonsense journalist from Premium Times), which I intended to use in a Facebook post to rebut Ikheloa’s criticism.
Nicholas looked at me, almost dismissively. He, however, managed to tell me that he knew nothing about all that. We couldn’t talk further as I left his side. That was the first and only time I had seen Nicholas Ibekwe.
If you do not know Nicholas Ibekwe, he is currently the most talked about Premium Times journalist who ‘exposed’ the bribery deal between popular Nigerian pastor, T.B Joshua and the journalists who went to his Synagogue Church of All Nation, where a collapsed building killed many. I have followed Nicholas’ tweets as they were consistently retweeted into my Twitter timeline. He is angry about many things; that Lagos Governor Fashola met with Joshua behind closed doors, and after the meeting, dodged reporters, and perhaps his most prioritized anger; how Joshua offered N50,000 bribe to each journalist at the press conference of September 14. He soon released a recording of the bribery deal he had alleged. And then, on the 23rd of September [yesterday], he eventually came out with his story: “Why I exposed T.B. Joshua for bribing journalists.”
So, why did Nicholas publish the audio? “…when I woke up last Saturday morning and saw the picture of President Goodluck Jonathan shaking hands with a grinning TB Joshua with headlines like ‘Jonathan consoles TB Joshua,’ I said damn it! I couldn’t stomach this blatant impunity.”
“Journalists shouldn’t be seen or heard telling the prime suspect they would write ‘just like you said’ after he offered to buy their consciences with N50, 000,” he also said.
I hadn’t listened to the audio. But in Nicholas’ story published in Premium Times, the audio was reproduced. I reached for my earpiece and gave that audio a rapt attention. Four minutes or there about. Perhaps I didn’t get the real thing, I played it again. And then, again. Time wouldn’t allow me, I would have transcribed here. Only first-class thinkers would agree with me. That audio I listened to has nothing to do with a bribery deal. Wait, you can call for my head later. Go back to that audio and listen again! In the audio, we hear Joshua announcing some 750k; to be shared, 50k each to journalists, to fuel their car. Some ask questions about the issue at hand, and Joshua– in a tone that depicts sobriety– answers them. And, as they round off, Joshua asks, ‘So, what are you going to write?’ and they all laugh at what seem a sarcastic remark from Joshua. I laughed, too.
In his story, however, Nicholas argued, “He clearly meant for the money to influence the reporting of the event, ‘So what are you going to write?’” he had asked. That makes it a bribe. Simple.’
Your head is in the air. Such is the problem when you are highly opinionated. By what logical conclusion do we pronounce that bribery?
Let me quickly state that it is wrong for Governor Fashola and President Jonathan to be seen patting Joshua’s shoulder over the collapsed building that was largely his fault. And of course, this is not an attempt to write in defence of Joshua. If you care to know, I may soon renounce my membership of the Pentecostal movement, following many atrocities within this Movement that do not stand well with me.
We are only stupid to assume 750k is money enough a bribe from T.B Joshua to hush journalists. The story was already in the mainstream media. I have watched NEMA PRO on Channels TV lamenting the difficulties they were having with T.B Joshua’s church authority. All had become clearer that there was illegal addition of storeys to the building which eventually resulted in the collapse. And even Joshua himself knows that the ‘hovering craft’ tale is not buyable. So, why exactly would he bribe journalists with 750k?
What is my point? That 50k is appropriately called honorarium. If after the announcement of that 50k for journalists to fuel their car and that Nicholas had rejected, he was then called back to further negotiate an increase, then it becomes a bribe! They are desperate about hiding something! Oxford dictionary helps us with the definition of an honorarium: ‘A payment given for professional services that are rendered nominally without charge.’ T.B. Joshua is no fool to think 750k is okay to bribe journalists so the story is not exposed. That is simply honorarium, and it follows the tradition of the church.
On the other hand, Oxford dictionary says this about bribe: ‘A sum of money or other inducement offered or given to bribe someone.’ Is Nicholas insinuating that 50k to fuel his car poses a bribery threat? Is it that Nicholas couldn’t have accepted that 50k and still go ahead to publish his investigative findings? When such honorariums are doled out, no journalist is held by any obligatory terms to accept. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the story, I, as a [freelance] journalist may accept or reject such honorarium. It would take the next lifetime to have me bribed so I won’t expose a story. If you decide to force the ‘honorarium’ on me, I will take it. I have a network of friends whose stomachs are an empty tank of beer. They will beer with that money and that story you are desperate in hiding from the public would have a smooth ride to the press.
Many people are aware of my affiliation with the APC, and admiration for Kayode Fayemi. The report I did for The Scoop after the Ekiti governorship election did not, in a single sentence, favour APC and the party’s flag-bearer, Fayemi. My editor was worried. He wanted a balanced feel in the report. “Do you mean you couldn’t find anybody who spoke well of the APC candidate?” he asked me before pushing the report for publishing. I knew I could not write it with the bias I have for the APC.
In the May 1994 edition of the American Journalism Review, Alicia C. Shepard writes; ‘Critics say that taking money from groups falling under a reporter’s purview raises all sorts of potential conflicts of interest or, at least, the appearance of one. The money also raises questions about a reporter’s objectivity.’ So, like Nicholas, if I were at the meeting with T.B Joshua, I would have rejected the honorarium offer. But, I will not refer to it as bribe.
The globally recognized Associated Press, AP, recognises this honorarium thing. On its website, under the heading, AP News Values & Principles, we read this: ‘Associated Press offices and staffers are often sent or offered gifts of other items—some of them substantial, some of them modest, some of them perishable—by sources, public relations agencies, corporations and others.’
‘Sometimes these are designed to encourage or influence AP news coverage or business, sometimes they are just ‘perks’ for journalists covering a particular event. Whatever the intent, we cannot accept such items; an exception is made for trinkets like caps or mugs that have nominal value, approximately $25 or less. Otherwise, gifts should be politely refused and returned, or if that is impracticable, they should be given to charity.’
End of discussion? I know some would say this is an attempt to euphemistically rebrand bribe as honorarium. If you are of this thought, I borrow the words of Nicholas and I throw them at you, ‘I can’t help you if you can’t decipher that. I am a reporter not a brain surgeon.’
Well, bribery is a criminal offense. And if Nicholas insists this is a bribe deal, he shouldn’t hesitate in writing the lawyer, Femi Falana, on the need to take this case up.
It is no news, that journalists in Nigeria are underpaid. Nicholas, in his story, admits this. According to www.payscale.com, a [USA] journalist earns an average salary of $36,834 per year. According to me, a Nigerian journalist’s pay in a year is around $6,000. It is not totally a bad pay. What is bad is the delay and irregularities in the payment. While I was covering Osun election, I interviewed an academic, Babatunde Bakare, at the Bowen University. I didn’t know him from anywhere. After the interview, he asked me how I was surviving as a journalist. I told him I have other things that I do that pay my bills. Even though I wasn’t seriously investigating any story, I was just seeking the opinion of an academic on the election, Babatunde felt obliged to give me something to support my transport and logistics. He would later tell me that until his recent appointment as an academic, he was a senior producer/scriptwriter for one of Africa’s largest TVs, AIT. And he wasn’t paid salary in the last ten months he had worked with AIT.
I also stopped taking Sam Nda-Isaiah’s presidential ambition seriously the day I heard he owed his reporters at Leadership Newspaper, four month salary. It took a Twitter/Facebook protest to get Sam to bow to his employees’ demands. These delays, irregularities, underpayment, are not justifiable reasons to accept bribe. No, they are not. These reasons, however, justify the collection of an honorarium, such type that does not mean you should report a black story as white.
Nicholas, then, advises journalists to ‘explore other related and legitimate means of making money like researching, writing, and editing reports for NGO…’ This is the silliest of all advices. Journalism is a professional job. The burden of researching, investigating a story, is already time consuming. News are time bound, and Nicholas risks his job with Premium Times if he fails to beat deadlines for the kind of ‘pending stories’ he mentions in his piece. I make money as a private academic researcher. The months I have more than two research jobs, I suspend my journalistic activities. And the day I become a full time journalist, I should resign as a researcher. Journalistic work is enough work to get enough pay if things were right.
As I conclude, I should raise an issue. After the three day media/blogger interactive forum in Ekiti in February, participants were each offered 50k honorarium by the organizers. My name is Femi Owolabi. I received the N50,000 (of course it never influenced my subsequent criticisms. Many who also accepted the money had asked Governor Kayode Fayemi harsher questions during the forum and even wrote critically about his policies after we had left). However, Stanley Azuakola, the editor of The Scoop and Chinedu Ekeke, the editor of Ekekeee in their separate critical reports, revealed that they politely rejected the N50,000. Out of about thirty participants, Nicholas Ibekwe inclusive, I am yet to read of any other apart from Stanley, Chinedu and Stanley Achonu (the Operations Lead of BudgIT), who didn’t take that N50,000 honorarium. It is, therefore, logical to believe that Nicholas Ibekwe, who now accuses his fellow journalists of bribery when it was honorarium, received such in February in Ekiti.

If he didn’t receive that money, here is my apology in advance.

Ekiti Governor-Elect’s Top Aide Murdered After Beating Up Judges!!!

 The face-off between Ekiti State Governor-Elect, Ayo Fayose has claimed the life of one of his trusted aides, Mr. Omolafe Aderiye, a former Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers in the state.

Ayo-FayoseThe wave of political violence that has engulfed Ekiti State, Nigeria, in the past one week, has claimed the life of an aide of Ayo Fayose, the Governor-elect of the state.

The murdered right hand man of the governor is a former chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, (NURTW) in the state, Mr. Omolafe Aderiye, who is said to be a staunch supporter of Fayose, and one of those who has been in the forefront of the trouble currently bringing the state into a lockdown.

According to Saharra Reporters, Aderiye was yesterday evening shot dead by four unknown gunmen at the Ijigbo area of Ado-Ekiti the state capital.

The report has it that Aderiye was accosted and shot at close range while on his way home after a meeting with the governor-elect. The report also added that the late man was present at the Ekiti State high court yesterday where a Judge was brutally beaten up by pro-Fayose supporters.

As widely reported on Thursday, 25 September, 2014, Ayo Fayose had led and supervised his political thugs to beat judges of the Ekiti State Judiciay, including the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Ayo Daramola and Justices Akintayo and Adeyeye, an action which led the Chief Judge to close down the courts till further notice.

It was also reported that the Governor-elect threatened to invade the Ekiti State Government House and force the incumbent, Kayode Fayemi out of offfice even before the hand-over date.

Days before then, thugs loyal to Ayodele Fayose had also stormed the Ekiti State High Court to disrupt proceedings in a case challenging his eligibility to contest the June 20 election won by him.

In that earlier attack, the Chairman of Ado West Local Council Development Authority, Mr Sunday Ibitoye, and others including judges, lawyers, security personnel and court offficials were attacked while Justice Olusegun Ogunyemi was smuggled out of the court to avoid being lynched by the thugs.

Justifying his actions, Fayose, in a press in Lagos, disclosed that the All Progressives Congress is plotting to ensure that the Speaker of the state House of Assembly becomes the next governor of the state instead of himself.

The whole scheming in Ekiti State is just about the APC obtaining judgement through the back door after losing elections on June 20, 2014. You will recall that Segun Oni’s tenure was truncated through this back door judgement by some judicial officers who have been compromised.

But the All Progressive Party, APC in the state accused Fayose of either being ignorant of the law governing electoral matters or he was deliberately being economical with the truth.

In a statement issued by the Director of Publicity and Media of the party, Segun Dipe, the party advised Fayose to always consult his legal advisers before making any statement that would characterise him not only as legally deficient but as a desperado.

If Fayose is not ignorant of the law or opting for deliberate falsehood, he would not embark on a campaign of calumny against those who have chosen to embark on the path laid down in both the 1999 Constitution and Electoral Law 2006 in ensuring that justice is not only done but seen as done.

If the admission of Fayose’s spokesperson that his supporters carried out the act (attack on the judge) because the judge was allegedly biased is anything to go by, the question then remains; is the invasion of the hallowed chamber the next step to take as a form of appeal?

Ramsey Noah Disownns His Father !!!

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Nollywood A-list actor, Ramsey Nouah, has finally come to the conclusion that he has no father figure in his life and as such, he does not reckon with the man that abandoned him and his mother when he was a little boy.

Ramsey whose father is apparently a white man going by his complexion, has made good of his life and has shown that such a circumstance should nit stop one from achieving anything he sets his mind to.

In an interview with SaharaTV during a movie shoot, the Nigerian movie lover boy was shown a photo of his alleged siblings and a man who is said to be his father and asked him if he recognizes them.

The actor who seemed angry at the question and the photos, reportedly replied that his mother never told him about any siblings and the man in the picture will never and is not recognized by him as his father, since a man who abandoned an innocent child and the poor mother is never fit to be a father.

Nigeria qualifies for Round of 16!

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Super Eagles team. Despite losing 3-2 to Argentina, our team has qualified to the knock-out stages as runners up in Group F. The first African nation to make it to the Round of 16. Go Super Eagles! Proud Nigerian!! And Enyeama, thank you! What a goal keeper!

And we are meeting France next! 

GLO………….bout time right?

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Helen Paul,the beautiful comedienne who holds you spellbound when you watch her is now onboard

The GLO deal which is allegedly worth millions is not the only deal up her sleeves…her publicist Bayo Adetu allegedly reveals she has also signed an endorsement deal with GoTV, a cable television station owned by MultiChoice Nigeria
Congrats Helen Paul…next up for a blessing is Comedienne Princess!

Bomb Blast In Abuja?

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A loud bang was heard coming from Banex/EMAB plaza Abuja. As can be seen in the picture above, there seems to have been an explosion!!! Over 30 casualties  were reported to have been brought into Maitama General Hospital. Close to 20 people feared dead.

Mistress Battered By Top Politician In Ogun, Explains How It All Happened

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Bayo Awosanya, a prominent member of the All Progressives Coalition in Ogun State, has gone underground after he allegedly battered his mistress who asked to be identified simply as Victoria. According to the victim and a police source, Mr. Awosanya beat his girlfriend over her failure to join him at a social party over the weekend.

 

The victim, who has a child with her alleged assaulter, told Sahara reporters that she was determined to end the relationship.

 

Our police source said the APC official had asked Victoria to meet him at a “house warming” party, but got uncontrollably furious when he returned from the event and found her still at home. As the mistress attempted to explain her absence, Mr. Awosanya dealt her several blows to the face and head. Continue after the cut.

Pastor’s Daughter Who Converted To Islam Set To Wed The Lawyer Who Handled Her Case

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Charity Uzoechina, the daughter of Pastor Raymond Uzoechina of the Redeemed Christian Church of God who converted to the Islamic faith in Feb. 2013 will soon tie the knot, Premium times reports.
Her marriage announcement was made known by the Executive Director of Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, Ishaq Akintola, whose organization has kept tab on the convert for months.
According to reports, Charity who has since changed her name to Aishat is getting married to the Islamic lawyer, Barrister Tijani, who handled her case during her conversion.
Her conversion was so contentious that she sort a sharia court injunction to be accommodated in the palace of the Etsu Nupe of Bida, Niger state, for fear that her parents and her Christian fellows would attack her. Her parents at the time accused the Etsu Nupe of abducting her and forcing her to denounce her Christian faith. Aishat however stated categorically that it was a voluntary decision and was in no way forced by anyone

“I joined Islam purely on my own terms. I love the character of Muslims that I have related with, particularly the way they behave. You know Muslims believe in God,” Miss Uzoechina said at the time.

She would be getting married on Friday May 2nd.

Peter Okoye Acquires 2014 Bentley Continental GT

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Although the car is still at the dealer’s shop in Atlanta, Peter tweeted the picture and said he is sure Lola would be jealous of his new baby. Who won’t lol. Big congrats to him.

Vice-President Namadi Sambo Loses Brother

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The Vice-President of Nigeria, Namadi Sambo is bereaved. Sambo lost his immediate younger brother today in an accident along Bill Clinton drive, airport road in Abuja. He was buried few hours later at Apo cemetery according to Muslim rites in the presence of former military President Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and several other dignitaries and sympathizers. He was aged 58, and was a qualified pilot until his death.