A former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, has demanded the retraction of a story and apology from The PUNCH for listing him among ex-governors who are headed for jail.
The story followed the handing down of a 12 years sentence to a former Governor of Abia State by a Federal High Court for the mismanagement of N7.65 billion.
The story was titled: “10 Govs who may suffer Kalu’s fate.”
Reacting to the development, Daniel, through his media aide, Ayo Giwa, said the case against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was a complete witch-hunt as it had dragged on for over eight years without any concrete evidence.
He also said the fact that he is being tried alone for the offences against him showed something was fishy.
The statement, titled: “Rejoinder: 10 Govs Who May Suffer Kalu’s Fate,” reads in full:
1. Our attention has been drawn to the news feature with the above headline in your widely circulating tabloid, Sunday 15-12-2019 edition. The same story was widely circulated in the Punch newspapers online platform which also has tremendous readership.
2. The import of the news features cannot be ignored, first from the number of calls from well wishers of Otunba Gbenga Daniel many of whom have lost interest in the persecution masqueraded as a Court trial in the last eight (8) years. Many have actually expressed concerns wondering if the matter still subsists. The natural answer we have offered and truthfully too, was “Yes, the matter still subsist in court”, but adding “painfully also with varying degrees of inconsistencies”.
3. Perhaps it is these varying degree of inconsistencies that we think should have captured the attention of your highly respected tabloid; instead of trying to sound prejudicial, passing judgement or seem to be guiding the court in the direction the verdict should swing as your headline suggests: “10 Govs Who May Suffer Kalu’s Fate”. We are of the strong view that, the use of the word “May” is highly suggestive and speculative (Subjunctive Mood) which carries the force, by implication, of a “Wish”. Should we therefore ask if Punch newspapers “wish” that Otunba Gbenga Daniel, guilty or not guilty, be convicted on their whims?
4. For the records, the EFCC has adjusted the charges on four (4) different occasions since OGD’s persecution by his Successor, former Governor Ibikunle Amosun started in 2011. The earlier charges started off on allegations of N87b, later adjusted to N52b, and then N9b and eventually they settled for N200m. All these were done within the Prosecution windows even as Otunba Daniel has not entered his own defense. It should also be noted that the EFCC spent almost 8 years in calling their various witnesses and none of them gave evidence of any missing money and/or funds belonging to Ogun State government. As a matter of fact, all the witnesses agreed under cross-examination that, no fund belonging to the state government is missing.
5. There are periods and circumstances when the media should play its role as an Ombudsman, especially when asking the right questions in certain circumstances is extremely important and can add value to society. There has been no record that any money was lost in Ogun State treasury while Otunba Daniel was Governor of Ogun State; hence there was no theft of any money belonging to Ogun State. Even when the Chief “Persecutor” himself held sway as the Governor on Ogun State he could not tender any record or documents of ANY money lost or missing from the Ogun State coffers. We need to emphasise that most of the subsisting charges bother on Administrative procedures and executive discretion.
6. We therefore wondered where these figures about two hundred million Naira (N200 million) stolen funds come from.
7. It therefore puts logic to test that it is ONLY Otunba Gbenga Daniel that is standing trial on behalf of an Administration that rule the state for eight (8) years; suggesting there was no accomplice, no clerk, no collaborators. Just one man, presumed to be signing vouchers, cheques and paying himself if indeed and truly there were any infractions on a state finance.
8. Unlike Punch we do not want to lead the court in the direction of its judgement in a trial that has lost all steam even to the media/journalists in the state. We rely solely on the independence of, and have great hope that the, judiciary will dispense justice in a fair and balanced manner at the end of the day even against the obnoxious wishes of the persecutors and evil minds.
9. We therefore demand a retraction and/or publication of this rebuttal which we hope will be accorded same measure of circulation and publicity that was given the news feature.