THE management of Western Publishing Company Limited, publishers of the Nigerian Compass and The Westerner Magazine, yesterday raised the alarm over a plan by Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State to “supervise the extinction of the publications”.
A statement entitled 'The Plot against Nigerian Compass and The Westerner by Governor Ibikunle Amosun and his Agents', signed by the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of the titles, Mr. Sina Kawonise, reads: “We have found it necessary to alert members of the public to an insidious plot by Senator Ibikunle Amosun, his administration and agents against Western Publishing Company Limited, publishers of the Nigerian Compass and the Westerner.
In the past few days blatant falsehood and sheer blackmail against the publications have been stepped up by Senator Amosun, his agents and media organs under the control of his administration over spurious allegations of libel.
“The truth of the matter is that the ongoing onslaught is in tandem with the vow of Governor Amosun to supervise the extinction of the publications. The first act in this war of attrition, being choreographed at the highest level of the Ogun State Government, was the orchestrated withdrawal of the Certificate of Occupancy of the company and the threat to demolish its building by the Ogun State Government. “Following the intervention of the courts which granted a stay of execution of the planned demolition, Governor Amosun and his agents are looking for other ways to achieve their plot.
“The latest weapon of warfare against the company is the persistent blackmail of the publications on state-owned OGTV and OGBC over the spurious allegations that the publications committed libel against the Governor and his administration. We want to affirm that libel cases are not established and proven on Radio and Television but in the court of law. We are in possession of letters from the lawyers of the governor and we have since affirmed that we stood by our story. And we still stand by the veracity of the reports published.
“In furtherance of his ploy to destroy the publications at all costs, his government has made a spurious report of the publications to the Nigerian Press Council (NPC). We are anxiously awaiting both the court summon and the invitation by the NPC, which will afford us the great opportunity to disprove the manipulated documents being paraded to deceive the public.
“The resort to these dark tactics of blackmail will not deter us from reporting the blatant fascism, high handedness, and sleaze and anti people policies that have become the hallmarks of the Ibikunle Amosun administration in Ogun State.
“We are aware of his vow to kill the publications but we want to assure Governor Amosun that, by the grace of God and the support of the people, The Westerner and Nigerian Compass will outlive his administration.
“We will continue to educate, inform and carry out our task of monitoring and reporting the developments in the society no matter whose ox is gored. That is our solemn pledge to the people of Nigeria”.
Meanwhile, local government workers in Ogun State will today begin a three-day warning strike as part of efforts to press home their demands for improved welfare as well as discontinuation of irregular salaries and illegal deductions of council funds.
The decision to embark on the warning strike was taken at the State Executive Council meeting of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) held on Monday.
A statement yesterday by the state branch of Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) indicated that the industrial action followed the failure of the state government to act on salient issues bordering on workers' welfare.
The union had earlier given the Amosun-led administration 14 and seven-day ultimatums respectively which however expired.
In the statement signed by NULGE State Secretary, Bamidele Oyeniyan, the local government workers claimed that the Amosun administration had remained adamant by not showing any commitment to the union's demands.
They alleged that as at September 12, 2012, the allocation for July had not been released to the councils by the state government.
The workers, however, said the three-day warning strike was given as a mark of respect for the Local Government Service Commission and council chairmen that met and appealed to the union to shelve the industrial action.
Oyeniyan's statement partly reads: "The situation was even made worse by the state government delegates demonstrated inability to commit the state government for seeming lack of mandate to do so, but limited themselves to pleadings and appeals.
This we believed is not good enough for members to be treated this way.
"We also observed that the state government has no interest in the welfare of our members. We would like to state here that as at today, 12th September 2012, allocation for the month of July has not been released, talk less of any effort to see how our members August salaries would be paid.
"Even some have not been able to complete the payment of July 2012 salaries. This is not what we expect from a 'progressive government.'
"In view of this ugly situation, therefore, the SEC-in-session has resolved to commence three-day warning strike with effect from Wednesday (today) to further press home our demands."
The union expressed hope that the warning strike would give the state government four more days of grace to act "without which an indefinite strike will be declared."
It will be recalled that NULGE, last week, decried the style of administration and governance model of Amosun, saying local governments in the state had been crippled.
Also, members of the Ogun State House of Assembly yesterday gave Amosun certain conditions for the passage of the executive bill seeking an enabling law to raise bonds and other financial instruments.
The bill titled: “A bill for a law to provide for the raising of loans through issuance of bonds, notes and other securities and for connected purposes,” passed through the first reading last week.
But at the sitting of the House yesterday, where the bill went through second reading, most of the lawmakers that debated it cautioned against wholesale passage. Though the legislators supported the bill, which according to them would provide framework for accessing and repayment of loans, they reasoned that certain clauses in the bill ought to be amended before its passage into law.
They highlighted Sections 10 and 11 of the bill, which deal about the power to raise loans and issuance of bonds, as requiring amendment for the bill to scale through.
The sitting presided over by the Speaker, Suraj Adekunbi, also witnessed the defection of three lawmakers elected on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) into the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
The lawmakers include Olusola Sonuga (Ikenne), Babatunde Edunjobi (Egbado South) and Adeyemi Harrison (Ogun Waterside).
They cited the protracted leadership tussle and instability within their former party as the major reason for defecting to the ACN.
While opening debate into the controversial bond bill, the Majority Leader, Israel Jolaoso, called on members of the House to give the bill accelerated passage.
Jolaoso, representing Ewekoro State Constituency, said the bill was imperative in view of the enormity of projects the government intends to embark upon.
His position was corroborated by John Obafemi (Remo North), who noted that the bill should be supported irrespective of political affiliations.
But Adijat Adeleye-Oladapo, representing Ifo II State Constituency, drew the attention of the House to Sections 10 and 11 of the bill, saying such might erode the powers of the legislature on public funds.
Adeleye-Oladapo, who recalled that she joined other lawmakers to oppose the bond bid by the immediate past administration of Otunba Gbenga Daniel, noted that the current bond bill also needed thorough scrutiny.
The lawmaker submitted that the executive bill should be amended to retain the legislative's powers over public funds. She said: "My concern, Mr Speaker, is Sections 10 and 11 (of the bill). If we go into the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Sections 120, 121 and 122 talk about the power of the legislature, in specific the power of the House of Assembly over public funds.
"The way this bill has been presented, probably because it's coming from the executive, if it should go like this, this House of Assembly will be ceding its powers to the executive. "Power over public fund lies with the legislature. So, it cannot be with the approval of the Executive Council; it must first of all be with the approval of the House of Assembly. So, my own stand as the person representing my people is the fact that in this bill that clause should be included.
"In this bill before it is passed into law, we should amend it to carry that whenever the state is going for any of these instruments, the approval of the House of Assembly must be sought."
Corroborating her, Victor Fasanya (Abeokuta South I), said the executive must not access loans without recourse to the House of Assembly.
Fasanya, an ACN member, however, expressed optimism that the shortcomings of the bill would be addressed in the proposed public hearing by the House.
Also, the Minority Leader, Job Akintan, cautioned the members against toying with the powers of the House over control on public funds.
Akintan, representing Ketu State Constituency on the PDP platform, also called for a public hearing on the bill, adding that the government should be transparent in its financiadealings.
He said: "We are about to make another history; a history that will make development or mar development. We should pass a bill that will outlive everyone of us.
"Apart from oversight, power over public fund is the second power the House has. We should strengthen that power and not erode it. We should follow necessary due process and have an elaborate public hearing on it to have people's input. "We should carry the people of the state along. The executive should be transparent in financial dealings. This is people's money and we are going to account for it. We are just trustees."
Akintan also decried the alleged conflicting figures from government about the state's debt profile.
After the debate, the Speaker ordered that the bill be referred to the House Committee on Finance and Appropriation for further action.
Before the House adjourned to Tuesday September 25, Adekunbi read the letters of three lawmakers who dumped the PDP for the ruling ACN.
The defectors were later hosted to a reception by Amosun and state ACN Chairman, Alhaji Ola Bello, at the Governor's Office, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta.
The defection of the lawmakers brings the number of ACN lawmakers to 20 while PDP and Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN) have three members each.