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Okowa’s N25m Largesse: Journalists At Daggers Drawn Posture As Online Publishers Pass Vote Of No Confidence On Ikeogwu-led Delta NUJ Council

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Online publishers in Delta state appear to be at loggerheads with the Delta State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), led by Comrade Michael Ikeogwu, over the N25 million largesse that Governor Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa of the state gave to state journalists.

The Delta Online Publishers Forum (DOPF), which represents online publishers, asserted that Ikeogwu had allegedly misappropriated the fund, with his Delta NUJ Council being accused of plundering a larger portion to the detriment of DOPF and other journalists in the state.

A leading CAC-certified organization of online newspaper publishers in the state, DOPF, condemned in strong terms the ways and manners the N25 million honorarium the Delta state government released to journalists in the state was appropriated in a statement issued to journalists in the state on Wednesday by its chairman, Emmanuel Enebeli, and secretary, Shedrack Onitsha.

DOPF expressed disappointment that the money that was graciously given to the Comrade Michael Ikeogwu-led Delta State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) by State Governor Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa during the opening of the New Government House Press Centre/Media Chat on March 13, 2023, has become a contentious issue among state chapels and media stakeholders due to what they called Ikeogwu-led exco’s “greed.”

“We frown at the Ikeogwu-led NUJ Council’s lack of transparency and accountability in the disbursement of the fund which was given in appreciation of publishers and journalists in the state who had worked tirelessly to promote programmes and policies of the state government.

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“While we appreciate the state government for the kind gesture, particularly when the governor specifically acknowledged the role of the media in promoting his policies and programmes, we take exception to the Ikeogwu-led NUJ Delta Council entitlement mentality as if the fund was exclusively for Ikeogwu and his executive to administer and appropriate to whosever they wish”.

According to DOPF, they were invited to the governor’s briefing as a registered group of journalists who publish content on various online platforms based in Delta, along with the NUJ Delta State Council, through the office of the public relations officer at Government House in Asaba. However, they claim that the Ikeowu-led State Council is treating them unfairly because of the fund that was not specifically intended to be appropriated by the Ikeowu-led State Council.

“As a body of online publishers that have no affiliation with the NUJ Delta Council, we thought Ikeogwu-led Delta NUJ Council would be transparent enough to call the leadership of the DOPF and other stakeholders concern to come out with modality on how the fund could be shared so that every stakeholders concern doesn’t feel cheated but to our chagrin Ikeogwu and his cohorts sat over the money and came out with a sharing formula that is smack of their corrupt tendency”, the statement reads.

Considering the history of the current leadership of the NUJ Delta State Council, which they claimed “had over time shown avarice to corner finances of journalists,” DOPF claimed that journalists from across the state had expressed concerns and mixed reactions when the governor announced that the fund would be channeled through the Ikeogwu-led state council of the NUJ.

Giving a graphic details of how the fund was appropriated according to information made available to them, DOPF said; “To the best of our knowledge, the NUJ Delta State Council, after much delay from 13 March 2023 to March 22, 2023, released a sharing structure thus: The correspondents Asaba – N3.2 million; Warri Correspondents – N2.8 million; Indigenous Correspondents – N500,000.00; Ughelli Chapel, N750,000.00; Sapele Chapel, N400,000.00; Association of Community Newspapers of Nigeria, N300,000.00 and DOPF N300, 000.00. This we consider belittling and insulting to DOPF and its members.

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“From the above, which was the only sharing formula made known to us, we discovered that the NUJ Delta State Council didn’t disburse up to N10 million of the N25 million the Governor gave to Chapels, the publisher’s forum, and other arms of journalists in the state; hence, we rejected the money and sent it back to the NUJ Delta State Council, through the Chairman, Mr Michael Ikeogwu.

“Based on the above, the DOPF Executive Council and Board of Trustees after extensive deliberation, passed a VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE on Comrade Michael Ikeogwu-led NUJ Delta State Council and vehemently condemned his actions in totality. We have lost confidence in the Ikeogwu-led NUJ Council handling anything duly meant for DOPF coming through the Delta NUJ Council.

“We have also directed our members to henceforth shun Delta Government briefings, press releases, and other media related activities, until this anomaly is addressed.

“However, we hereby place on record categorically, our sincere and profound gratitude, to His Excellency, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, the Executive Governor of Delta State, for his legendary generosity and magnanimity to the publishers and journalists in the state over the years, and especially with this latest largess, which he voluntarily released to ease the burdens imposed on Nigerians, by the on-going Naira redesign/cash swap fiasco”, the statement added.

However, the State Working Committee led by Comrade Michael Ikeogwu has received a vote of confidence from the State Executive Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Delta State Council, who described their recent actions as wonderful.

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In a statement signed by the 32 members of SEC after its meeting, which was held today, Wednesday, March 29, 2023, after deliberation on various issues affecting the Union, SEC-in council concluded that Ikeogwu and his Exco had done well, especially with the disbursement of money recently given to it by the state government during the Quarterly Media Briefing by the Governor.

“In a convivial atmosphere where members openly aired their views, some of them saw the need to pass a vote of implicit confidence on the State Working Committee to prove to detractors that the union is one and that the Exco had done well in managing the affairs of the Union.

“The motion which was moved by Comrade Christian Ogoh and seconded by Comrade Abel Johngold with an amendment by Comrade Pere Botu to appreciate and commend Governor Ifeanyi Okowa for his media friendly disposition, affirmed that the State Exco acted in accordance with the Constitution of NUJ in carrying out recent actions as they affect the union”, the statement reads.

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