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News Express Publisher explodes in interview with US-based online newspaper, says hardship driving Nigerians to suicide

By News Express on 19/09/2016

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In an interview he granted Eric Andrew, Associate Editor of the US-based Nigerian Standard Newspaper (nigeriastandardnewsaper.com) over the weekend, Isaac Umunna, Publisher/Editor-In-Chief of News Express, Nigeria’s fast growing online newspaper, bared his mind on the state of the Nigerian nation and speaks on his ordeal in the hands of Nigeria’s Department of State Services (DSS). Please read on.

Q: How best will you describe the high inflation presently affecting millions of Nigerians?

Isaac Umunna: It is a real tragedy. Things are now beyond the reach of a larger part of the Nigerian population and the media are becoming saturated with stories of faint-hearted people who commit suicide as a result of the crushing hardship in the land. I wish to appeal to the government to take concrete steps to give people hope and a reason to live.

There are allegations in some quarters that the only achievement of Buhari is in the area of corruption-fight, do you believe?

Are they fighting corruption? I am yet to see the evidence. I would expect any war against corruption to start with the abolition of security vote, which hands billions of dollars to the executive that is never accounted for. What I see is not a war against corruption but the harassment of perceived enemies who seem to have skeletons in their cupboards.

Why do you think the present administration is not diversifying Nigerian economy?

It would be wrong to level that accusation. The administration is less than two years old and has left no one in doubt of its determination to diversify the Nigerian economy. In this regard, it is giving serious attention to agriculture and solid minerals.

International community believes this Nigerian government is constantly in Human Rights Violation..what is your take?

The allegation is true. I mean, the evidence is there for all to see.

Why do you think Nigerian economy is facing recession?

The recession was inevitable. The Muhammadu Buhari administration seems to believe that the best way to run the country’s economy is to pack all the money and lock it up in the central bank, but that is a wrong approach. The sudden and comprehensive implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) suddenly drained the financial system and violently shook up the economy. To compound the situation, the administration is distracted by unnecessary wars it started too early in the day. From the North to the South-East and South-South, the country has become heavily militarised; instead of booming industries, you now find military checkpoints, barracks, etc. This comes at a great cost and is a costly mistake at a time of reduced oil earnings when the priority should be to dialogue and peace-making so that scarce resources could be used for development instead f being frittered on largely avoidable wars.

Many Nigerian youths are presently idle, graduates jobless, thereby taking to crimes and prostitution. How can this ugly vice be redressed?

There is never going to be enough work for everybody except in God’s Kingdom. However, the present dire situation can be improved if everybody works with commitment in this regard. Government should create a conducive environment for businesses to thrive, wealthy Nigerians should set up businesses and employ people instead of keeping the money abroad in cash and big houses which are often uninhabited. The youths also should take their education seriously, acquire needed skills and make themselves employable. As an employer of labour myself, I wish to say that perhaps the greater percentage of today’s Nigerian youths are unemployable as they have preoccupied themselves with enjoying music and movies instead of developing themselves.

There were allegations that Aliko Dangote’s rice is poisoned, though the Nigerian Government promptly denied it. What do you think?

The allegation is not true; it lacks foundation. The Dangote I know cares too much about Nigerians and about his company’s good name to engage in such. The allegation doesn’t make sense: Dangote makes his money from Nigerians, so how does he benefit by giving them poisoned rice to eat? It just does not make sense.

Why is it difficult for Buhari’s government to embark on a large scale agricultural farming to in a bid to cut down hunger in the land?

It is too early to judge the administration in this regard. In any case, how many farms can government establish? This is a task for everybody – not just the government.

Can you take us through your harrowing experience in the hands of former President Olusegun Obasanjo for being a reporter?

I was in my Lagos Island Nigeria Office of the London-based Africa Today magazine, where I was the General Editor (West Africa), when I got a call on September 8, 2004, that armed men in mufti – who turned out to be operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) had invaded my private business office in the Oregun area of Lagos and held my staff and family hostage. My two children, who were then in primary school, were on holiday and had followed their mother to the office, when the secret police operatives stormed the place and terrorised them, brandishing guns and turning the office upside-down in search of non-existing incriminating documents.

I was at that time publishing a very popular tabloid known as Global Star but was officially recognised in the paper as Consulting Editor since I was on the staff of Africa Today. Global Star was known for its authoritative reporting of the agitation for Biafra in South-East Nigeria and for resource control in the neighbouring South-South or Niger Delta. Apparently, some idle DSS officials had written spurious security reports claiming that I was involved in the Biafra agitation while the reverse was the case: I was simply using my strong contacts in the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) to report the agitation – which started in September 1999, in an authoritative manner.

After getting that ominous call, I immediately contacted my lawyer, Barrister Obi Akabogu, who led a team of lawyers to the Lagos Office of the DSS to secure the release of my wife and staff on the condition that I would turn myself in the next day. Contrary to the advice and warning of some concerned professional colleagues, I voluntarily reported at the DSS Lagos Office in Shangisha the next morning. My argument was simple: I had nothing to hide and every citizen should honour any invitation by any government agency which feels that the said citizen has useful information that could help it in doing its work.

•Photo shows News Express Publisher Isaac Umunna.

Source News Express

Posted 19/09/2016 05:02:47 AM

 

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