The Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria, Bayo Onanuga, has responded to allegations by four unions of the organisation that he ran the place aground.
Onanuga, in a detailed memo he addressed to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and which was obtained by The Eagle Online on Sunday, said NAN was in comatose when he assumed office three years ago.
Onanuga, a foremost journalist, was appointed three years ago by President Muhammadu Buhari, with his second term regarded as a fait accomplished because of the innovations he had brought to the Agency.
These included several cut saving measures, opening up of more revenue sources, widening the user base of the services of the Agency and insisting on higher standards of news filed by Correspondents and their editing by Editors at the head office.
However, the four unions in the Agency, including the Nigeria Union of Journalists chapel, alleged that Onanuga ran NAN down and should thus not get a reappointment.
They made their position known in a protest letter riddled with errors from the headline to Mohammed.
It was titled: “Re: Save News Agency of Nigeria from eminent (sic) collapse: Please don’t re-appoint Bayou Onanuga.”
Reacting, Onanuga took up the unions point by point on the issues raised.
He wrote: 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.
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 10am. 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.
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?