Lecturer condemns NUJ over Mowe/Pen-Jewel Estate land crisis

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By Femi SHODUNKE

NIGERIA: A LECTURER has blamed the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) for failing to intervene, at the right time, in the Mowe (Abaren)/Pen-Jewel Estate land crisis.

*Odusile…NUJ National President.

Mr. Mobolaji Oluwaseun Abati, who is a lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication at the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, Ogun State, in an interview with GatewayMail, said that the failure to act appropriately has brought shame to the union over the alleged misappropriation of funds on the proposed 56. 753 hectares estate valued at N1.6 billion.

According to Abati, who was the first elected Chairman of Local Government Information Chapel of the NUJ, the excuse proffered by the national leaders of the union was unacceptable.

“I am not too convinced with reasons given by the national body,” the lecturer said, adding: “Permit me to say it here that if the issue had been handled properly, the global shame that characterized the profession in Nigeria in the last two weeks would have been averted.”

“The woman (Mrs. Dupe Laoye-Oshikolu) who reported did so believing the leadership of the union could rescue her and others but to no avail,” he stressed.

The National President of the NUJ, the umbrella body for journalists in the country, Abdulwaheed Odusile, had told GatewayMail that the union leaders declined to intervene because those involved in the matter assured them that the matter would be resolved internally among themselves.

Similarly, the National Secretary of the union, Shuaibu Usman Leman, said that despite the non-intervention of the NUJ, the union had no vested interest in the NAWOJ housing fraud apart from the desire to ensure accountability.

Abati, however, further declared that the leaders should be blamed, saying that “for real, it would go down the records that journalism in Nigeria was put into shame due to the corrupt practice of some top notchers of the union during the reign of present administration.”

*Mrs. Ifeyinwa Omowole…NAWOJ National President.

“I want to suggest that once an issue of that magnitude is reported in future, a panel of inquiry should be instituted immediately to look into issues with a view to finding a lasting solution to it,” Abati, who left the local government in Ogun State to join the polytechnic, stressed.

Only about three weeks ago, the land probe committee set up by the Lagos Council of the union, submitted its report to the Chairman, Dr. Qasim Akinreti.

In the report, the panel indicted the Chairperson of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Mrs. Ify Omowole, the association’s Treasurer, Mrs. Tosin Odusola, and the immediate past Chairman of the council, Mr. Deji Elumoye.

For their alleged financial mishandling, the 10-man committee headed by Fabian Anawo of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), recommended the ban of Omowale, Odusola, who refused to appear before the committee, and Elumoye from holding any position within the NUJ for 10 years and several millions of naira and thousands of dollars to be paid back.

The panel also recommended the cancellation of the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the developer, Primewaterview Holdings Limited, and termination of the housing project.

“The MOU signed with the developer should be cancelled and the project terminated.  The developer has shown gross lack of commitment, and diligent execution on the project,” the committee stated, adding: “A letter should be sent to the developer terminating the MoU and project in its entirety.  A Quantity Surveyor should be engaged to assess the value of work done by the developer on site.”

*Elumoye…ex-Chairman involved.

But Odusile, while defending the union’s action, said: “She (Laoye-Oshinkolu) made some allegations against some people including former chairman Lagos NUJ, Deji Elumoye and NAWOJ national chairman Ifeyinwa Omowole which I referred to NUJ national secretary Mallam Usman Shuaibu to handle,” he said.

Odusile further defended: “Specifically, I told him to ask those mentioned in her complaint to respond to the allegations which I think they all did.  From the response, I noticed there were differences and I called for further explanations.  Though I did not get the details I expected because I gathered they were still working on them, they assured me they were going to resolve the differences.

“I trusted them to do just that because they initiated the project and I believed they would do their best to make it a success.  For a while after this I did not hear anything from them again and I had the impression all was going well.  There was even a ground breaking ceremony after this to signal the commencement of the project and I was very happy.”
He also said: “However, in the run up to the Lagos NUJ election last year, rumors were flying that all was not well with the project and I called the principal actors to know what was going on.

“I made it clear to them on the need to come good on the project as promised the depositors especially as the tenure of the immediate past exco in Lagos Council was coming to an end soon.  This regrettably did not happen.  You know the rest of the story.”

*Abati…Blamed NUJ leadership.

“It is wrong to say I did not do anything since we got Mrs. Oshinkolu’s complaints.  I have no vested interest in the matter and certainly nothing to cover up.  I am also a contributor/depositor to the project and eager to know what has happened to my investment.”

Also, Shuaibu declared: “Yes we received a petition from Dupe and her colleague over the land issue.  We did not sweep it under the carpet.  We requested for explanation from NAWOJ President and Lagos council which we got.”

“At that time there was no compelling reason for us to pursue the matter that was why we kept it in view,” the National Secretary said, adding: “We had no vested interest in the NAWOJ controversy apart from the desire to ensure accountability.”

“This I can assure you.  I cannot say whether the NUJ President truly encouraged Dupe to write that petition or not.  I suggest you take it up with him please,” Shuaibu stressed.

*To contact GatewayMail newspaper, Toronto, Canada email us at: info@gatewaymail.org, whatsapp or text message: +2348033186252 (no calls)

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