Itse Sagay, a legal scholar, has denied ever granting an interview to the Nigerian Tribune to deride President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption efforts.
Speaking with a correspondent of SaharaReporters by telephone from Lagos, Mr. Sagay, a professor of law, well known constitutional lawyer and head of President Buhari’s advisory committee on anti-corruption, said he was shocked to read a report concocted by the newspaper, crediting him with sharp criticism of the current administration’s anti-corruption strategy. According to him, the newspaper’s report on his purported interview represented a desperate attempt to discredit President Buhari’s anti-corruption war.
Mr. Sagay told our correspondent that he had stopped granting interviews to the Tribune after the paper’s editors had twisted an interview he granted them in August. According to him, the paper’s account of his August interview was tailored to suit the devious agenda of its editors hence his rejection of all efforts by the newspaper to speak with him on record for an interview.
The Nigerian Tribune is one of the newspapers named as beneficiaries of a payout from funds that were meant for the purchase of weapons to fight Islamist insurgent group, Boko Haram. The revelation of a widespread dole-out of cash to media groups, including the Tribune, has emerged as part of a scandal involving former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (ret.), who is accused of diverting more than $2 billion budgeted for weaponry.
Investigators have revealed that several Nigerian newspapers received N10 million each from the slush fund overseen by Mr. Dasuki. At least 12 newspapers were paid from the fund through Nduka Obaigbena, chair of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), according to investigators. Even though the Tribune denied receiving the funds, subsequent disclosures indicated that the newspaper’s editors took part in a meeting where it was agreed that the booty should be accepted.
In dismissing the opinion attributed to him by the Tribune, Mr. Sagay said he had never met or spoken to the journalist who wrote the report, insisting that the interview was made up. He challenged the reporter and paper’s editors to provide the public with a tape recording of the so-called interview.
The late Obafemi Awolowo founded the Tribune, and his family still owns the paper, which is one of Nigeria’s longest surviving daily newspapers.