Umar Yar'adua's regime displayed its Abacha-like tendency when it withdrew the operating license for Channels TV. A source within the regime told SaharaReporters that the move to shut down Channels was pushed by the 

Director General of State Security Services (SSS).

Our source said Mr. Afas Gadzana has been jittery ever since the recent dismissal of Mr. Baba Gana Kingibe from the post of secretary to the federal government. “Since Kingibe recommended him for the post of SSS director, Mr. Gadzana fears that Yar’adua may be questioning his loyalty. He saw the closure of Channels TV as a way to reassure the government that he can move decisively against the president’s political enemies.”  

In a related development, a senior source in the secretariat of the ruling PDP told SaharaReporters that the Yar’adua regime’s prompt action in closing down the Lagos-based private television station was informed by panic over the station’s intention to broadcast a damaging piece on Yar’adua’s health.

The Yar’adua regime has been rattled by a news report sent out on the format of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) to the effect that Mr. Yar’adua planned to resign from office on health grounds. The regime’s spokesman, Segun Adeniyi, strongly denied the report, which was carried by several Nigerian papers as well as Channels TV.

“But the main reason the president decided to move against Channels, by shutting it down and then taking away its license, is that the government received a reliable tip that the station was going to broadcast a report alleging that Yar'adua was reportedly diagnosed with lung cancer during his last trip to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. SaharaReporters exclusively revealed that the trip was for medical reasons.

The story about Yar’adua’s dire diagnosis was reportedly obtained by former military dictator, Ibrahim Babangida, and passed on to Channels. Our PDP source said Babangida had reportedly obtained the information from his contacts in Germany just before traveling to France to check up on his own health in preparation for running to replace Yar'adua as president.

A source within Babangida’s political camp said the former military ruler sent word from France to his supporters to activate their surreptitious political strategy. He asked his key supporters to begin reaching out to various sectors of the Nigerian political spectrum in preparation for his ascension to power. He reportedly empowered a group of retired military generals known as IBB Boys to meet with progressive politicians in Kaduna in view of his findings that Yar'adua was confirmed to be terminally ill.

In a recent newspaper interview, Babangida’s brother-in-law, Sonny Okogwu, who was part of his planning team, defended Babangida’s proactive preparations. Asked why Babangida was revving up his political preparations during Yar’adua’s hospitalization, Mr. Okogwu responded: “If you don't prepare before rain falls, it will be too late. This nation belongs to every one of us. Those who can handle it prepare before a leader leaves position.” Then he added: “Supposing something happens to Yar'Adua, God forbid, is it then that we would start looking for them?”

Mr. Okogwu also gave a glimpse into the North’s thinking in the event that Yar’adua is unable to continue in office. In his view, “Jonathan would remain as vice president and a new president will come from the North.” Mr. Okogwu also asserted that Babangida never planned to quit seeking the presidency. Instead, he explained that Babangida only meant “he was stepping aside and that remains until he steps back in.” Okogwu then  described his brother-in-law as “strong and never tired.”

Our sources indicated that the ongoing activities by Babangida’s group so unsettled some PDP chieftains that a delegation, led by Governor Bukola Saraki, was dispatched to Jeddah to meet with Yar'dua who was then undergoing a series. The delegation’s mission was to persuade Yar’adua to return to Nigeria immediately to arrest the shifting political grounds.

Yar'adua’s initial response was that he would not return to Nigeria on account of “public agitation.” But he changed his mind after he read convincing security reports that some political interests in the North were planning to announce his ouster in a week or two—during a scheduled meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

A source at the Presidency told SaharaReporters that security reports had suggested that John Momoh, Channels Television’s proprietor, had been recruited by IBB to prepare the ground for Babangida’s re-emergence as the top contender for the presidency.

Several sources told us that Momoh is extremely close to Babangida. In fact, one source suggested that the former military dictator provided a substantial part of the station’s start-up capital.
Even so, Mr. Momoh had also tried to maintain a close relationship with the Yar’adua regime. His coziness with Yar’adua made it surprising that Channels TV aired the news bulletin about Yar’adua’s resignation without first checking it with the regime’s top officials. The source of the report, which was reportedly disseminated by “the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN),” remains a mystery to media watchdogs all over Nigeria.

A media watcher in Abuja told our correspondent that it was something of a calculated gamble that Channels TV carried the report, which was also picked up by AFP. Despite his closeness to Babangida, Mr. Momoh has also tried to ingratiate himself with Yar’adua. A few months ago, Mr. Momoh piloted an interview with Yar’adua aimed at dispelling lingering questions about his health. During the interview, he and others threw “softball questions” to Yar'adua whose ceaseless coughing throughout the session ended up reinforcing the image of a weak, sickly man. 

Several sources in Abuja told us that the entire drama of fake news reporting was a hoax by the government to discredit internet-based news outlets in the country. “SaharaReporters and other websites have become a source of headache for the Yar'adua regime,” said one of the sources. “Therefore the government’s security agencies are making it a priority to discredit any form of Internet news exchange. The security agencies feel frustrated that they can't locate online-based media.”

In another twist, a senior NAN staff told SaharaReporters that the clampdown on Channels TV was a distraction orchestrated by Information Minister John Odey. He said: “Mr. Odey is desperate to deflect attention from an ICPC report which indicted him as well as former managing director of NAN, Akin Oshuntokun, for embezzling N600 million.” Odey was then the chairman of the board of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). The embezzlement was carried out through contracts and the duo shared the proceeds. Our source said the ICPC report ICPC ordered Odey and Oshuntokun to refund the money. 

Odey led the first detachment of agents of the State Security Services (SSS) who went to close down Channels TV offices in Abuja.

The federal government of Nigeria through its broadcast media regulatory agency, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has revoked the operating licence of Nigeria's foremost private Television station, Channels TV.
 A Press release signed by one Engineer Yomi Bolarinwa reads:

The National Broadcasting Commission in consonance with the provisions of paragraph 8(d) of the Third Schedule of the NBC Act No. 38 of 1992 (as amended) and paragraph (g) of the national Broadcasting Commission Code, which states:

A licence may be revoked by the commission in the following cases that is :- where in the opinion of the Commission , the station has been used in a manner detrimental to national interest...

The Commission shall revoke a licence where a broadcast station commits any of the under-listed offences:- where the licensee broadcasts information immediately leading, or likely to lead, to a breakdown of law and order in the country.

In furtherance to the above, following the News Broadcast of 2. 00 pm on the 16th of September 2008 by Channels Television, the National Broadcasting Commission hereby invokes the law and suspends with immediate effect the operations of Channels Television in all locations in Nigeria.

This action is without prejudice to any further action that may be taken by the National Broadcasting Commission as investigation is on going.


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