By Sadiq Umar
A committee set up by the Nigerian Senate Press Corps to investigate the alleged N2 million largesse purportedly given by Senate President Bukola Saraki, to some journalists, has found as untrue claims in a story published by an online medium, Newsacross.com.ng.
The online outfit, had alleged that Messrs Sunday Aborisade of Punch newspapers and Henry Umoru of vanguard, collected N2 million on behalf of eight other senate correspondents from the senate president.
Worried by the shocking report, the executives of the Senate press corps set up a panel to unravel the veracity of the claims.
But the committee headed by the correspondent of Daily Newswatch newspapers, Mr. Taiye Odewale, at the end of its thorough investigations, submitted on Thursday cleared Aborisade, Umoru and others of an complicity, declaring their innocence.
In the report, the senate press corp committee noted that allegations of racketerring levelled against the reporters of Punch, Vanguard and others were baseless and a mere blackmail.
The committee found that although the senate president through the head of his media and a former Commissioner in Ogun State, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, duly invited the reporters to the assignment, the claim that they collected money was totally false.
The report further clarified that the allegation that the reporters collected a bribe after the event was incorrect and baseless because no single member of the 75-member press corp wrote any petition concerning it to the committee.
It also noted that formal and informal investigations conducted by the panel among the journalists who attended the assignment and the four-member team of the Senate President media team, did not establish the fact that money exchanged hands before, during or after the event.
Part of the report read, “……The senate president was quoted to have remarked thus after the interview, ‘I will later meet with the entire Senate Press Corps on Tuesday, June 30th 2015 here at the same venue for a fast-breaking dinner’ which eventually took place…..”
The committee, while absolving the affected journalists of any wrong doing by honouring an invitation extended to them, also, commended them for agreeing to send the transcribed texts of the interview to other journalists who were not invited to the assignment.
The panel did not recommend any sanction against the affected reporters because they neither initiated the event nor hijacked an assignment meant for the entire senate press corps.
It, however, recommended that executive of the corps should initiate a meeting with the head of Saraki’s media team and point out the implications of organising a select group of journalists to interview his principal.
Meanwhile, further investigations by our correspondent had revealed that the office of the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, might have earned the sympathy of the authors of the fictitous publication in the Newsacross.com.ng.
A careful observation by our correspondent revealed that the word ‘skew’ used in the libelous write up, indicting the Punch reporter of conniving with others to create enmity between Saraki and Ekweremadu, with their reports, featured prominently in the press statement of the Media aide of the latter, Uche Anichukwu, while reacting to a Punch newspapers’ lead story, “Insurgency worsening under Buhari – Ekweremadu”
They urged the relevant federal government agency and professional bodies responsible for sanitising media practice in the country, to put necessary measures in place to check the abuse of the profession by bloggers and other non-professionals.