Corruption Charges: Azu To Refund N17million To Punch
The last is yet to be heard about the corruption charges levelled against the suspended executive director of The Punch Newspapers, Azubuike Ishiekwene as the media house has so far discovered that Azu had in the course of his various private business deals robbed it of not less than N17 million revenue. iReports-ng sources in the organisation revealed that as at last week, the management team investigating corruption charges against Azu had discovered that the man who has brought so much shame to journalism profession in the recent years has actually robbed Punch of a revenue totalling about N17 million.
iReports-ng had broken the story about the petition written by Steve Ayorinde who was forced to resign as the editor of Punch in February. He had in the petition detailed how Azu abused his position in the organisation to enrich himself. One of the allegations was that Azu who consults for various corrupt politicians, governments and private business people using Punch as a platform, had been using his authorities as an ED to place his numerous clients adverts on news pages which would naturally attract some extra fees for the organisation. Steve had alleged that curiously Azu had found ways of avoiding paying the extra charges which will eventually add up to his own commission as additional profits.
According to sources, this touched on the Punch’s revenue drive and as such formed part of the first set of allegations to be investigated. The findings of the team has so far revealed how Azu profited immensely by denying Punch its own revenue. One of the suggested recommendations is that the company should find a mean of recovering the stolen revenue from him before taking any other disciplinary steps.
Azu who had through his column , deceitful look and close ties with the former EFCC boss, Nuhu Ribadu portrayed himself as a saint came under close scrutiny when Steve fired a petition to the board of Punch to expose the real Azu. iReports-ng gathered that Azu had actually written a book in 2008 titled: The Trial Of Nuhu Ribadu, as a sign of his commitment to the anti-graft course in the country. Miffed by the incoherent statement of the chairman of Punch which was published on the cover page of the paper yesterday, another staff of the company who pleaded not to be named has opened yet another can of scandals depicting the chairman, Chief Ogunsola and Azu as birds of the same feather. The staff identified as Sam O. for the sake of this story sent in a letter to narrate his own account of what has been going on under the desk in the organisation.
His letter is reproduced below:
“I salute your courage in exposing the rot in the media industry in Nigeria particularly PUNCH’s ride to leadership position on the strength of falsehood and untruths fed the reading public.
“I work in PUNCH. I am still there but grossly unhappy with developments.
“My particular response is in relation to the reference to a report concerning the wife of the Vice President as detailed in my colleague, Musikilu Mojeed’s letter reproduced below.
“I should be able to give you the dates if I check my diary but I am sure it was in 2008.
“The report was received in Lagos and was properly treated.
“Calls were made to the VP’s spokesman, Ima Niboro for his boss’ reaction but he called our bluff and said we should let the VP be.
“My editors then decided to inform the Daily Editor for his approval before running the story. He agreed it was a good copy and decided to call Niboro himself. He did call Niboro and got same response. He then gave the go-ahead for the story to run. Production was concluded and printing started in earnest.
“No sooner had printing started than the editor ran down to the press to order that printing should stop and that all that had been produced be condemned.
“He had received a call from the Chairman, Chief Ajibola Ogunshola that anything relating to the VP and his wife in the paper for the next day and subsequently be suspended.
“We were later to find out that Niboro called his boss to tell him what PUNCH was up to. The VP then requested the PUNCH Chairman’s number. Niboro called the Executive Director, Publications, Mr. Azubuike Ishiekwene, to request the chairman’s number for his boss. The ED cleared with the Chairman and then released the number to Niboro who forwarded it to his boss.
“The boss put a call through to the Chairman and negotiated the death of the report. We later learnt the VP paid the bill for the next day’s total print and the adverts to get the chairman to order the destruction of the copies already printed.
“That was the end of the report.
“So, in trying to nail the ED, we should not forget the involvement of the Chairman in this whole thing.
“It may interest you to know that the Chairman on many occasions ordered critical reports on Governor Raji Fashola’s land acquisition, allocation, and urban development efforts among othesr just because his plot of land in Magodo GRA was revoked.
“He had also ordered the sack of some reporters who wrote anything affecting any of his friends, no matter how well-founded on facts those reports were.
“Journalism is taking a plunge. Let’s act fast to save it.”