Crisis has erupted in the Delta State Chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) following the alleged “misappropriation and fraudulent” sharing formula of the N25 million honorarium given to journalists in the state by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.
It was gathered that the Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, on Monday, March 13, 2023, during the inauguration of the new government house press centre, promised to release an honorarium to the Michael Ikeogwu-led NUJ council in the state.
The pledge which was fulfilled after some days with the release of the sum of N25 million according to some members was allegedly misappropriated and fraudulently disbursed.
This was disclosed in a press statement signed by the chairman of Delta Online Publishers Forum ( DOPF), Emmanuel Enebeli and the secretary, Shedrack Onitsha on behalf of the body, frowned on the Ikeogwu-led NUJ council’s lack of transparency and accountability in the allotment of the fund which was given in appreciation of publishers and journalists in the state for their efforts in promoting the programmes and policies of the state government.
The statement reads, “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.
“To set the record straight, the Delta Online Publishers Forum, (DOPF) as a registered body of journalists who are publishers of various Delta-based online platforms, was invited to the programme like any other body, including the NUJ Delta state council through the office of the Public Relations Officer (PRO) government house, Asaba. The invitation, as extended to us has been the tradition between us and the state government in the past.
“As a body of online publishers that have no affiliation with the NUJ Delta council, we thought the Ikeogwu-led Delta NUJ council would be transparent enough to call the leadership of the DOPF and other stakeholders concerned to come out with a modality on how the honorarium would be disbursed so that every concerned stakeholder does not feel cheated but to our chagrin, Ikeogwu and his cohorts sat over the fund and came out with a disbursement formula that is the smack of their corrupt tendency.
“It was also on record that right after the media briefing, journalists had expressed fears and apprehension about what will become of the honorarium, considering the antecedent of the current leadership of the NUJ Delta state council which had over time shown avarice to divert and embezzled finances of journalists.
“To the best of our knowledge, the NUJ Delta state council, after much delay from 13 March 2023 to March 22, 2023, released a disbursement formula where the correspondents chapel, Asaba got N3.2 million; Warri correspondents chapel got N2.2 million; Indigenous correspondents chapel, Asaba got N750,000; Ughelli correspondents chapel got N750,000; Sapele correspondent chapel got N400,000; Association of Community Newspapers of Nigeria got, N300,000 and DOPF got a meagre N300, 000 only. This we consider cheating, belittling and insulting to the DOPF and its members.
“From the above which was the only disbursement formula made known to us, we discovered that NUJ Delta state council didn’t disburse up to N10 million from the N25 million hence we rejected the money for the Ikeogwu-led NUJ council, through the Chairman. Based on the above, the DOPF executive council and Board of Trustees after extensive deliberation, passed a vote of no confidence on Michael Ikeogwu-led NUJ council and vehemently condemned his actions in totality.
“We have lost confidence in the Ikeogwu-led NUJ council in handling anything duly meant for DOPF coming through the 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, it was gathered that some chapel chairmen and secretaries who were not happy over the issue were bribed with N50,000 each to influence their vote of confidence passed on him by the state executive council on Wednesday in the state capital.