Buhari’s CSO Opens Up: My Case Against Punch Reporter

President Muhammadu Buhari’s chief security officer, Bashir Abubakar has
defended his decision to expel a Punch reporter from the Aso Rock,
saying journalists have a responsibility to be patriotic in reporting
matters of national importance.

In an internal memo he
distributed on Tuesday to presidency officials, including Femi Adesina,
the special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Abubakar
detailed alleged transgressions and ethical concerns observed in Lekan
Adetayo’s reporting of activities of the State House, and pronounced him
unfit to continue on the beat.
“You may wish
to advise the Punch Newspaper that it reserves the right to send a more
matured, professional and patriotic representative that will work in the
overall interest of the nation rather than self-serving and parochial
interests,” Mr. Abubakar, a former Director of State Security Service in
Bayelsa State, said in the April 25 memo, which was also copied to the
President and the Director-General of SSS, Lawal Daura.

Mr.
Abubakar’s memo, obtained by PT, went out a day after he withdrew
Adetayo’s accreditation, drawing renewed allegations of media
suppression against the Nigerian government.

The Punch slammed
Mr. Abubakar for humiliating its reporter in a statement Tuesday,
describing the expulsion as “unwarranted”, “unjustified” and
“condemnable”.

The paper asked the presidency to rebuke the CSO,
and demanded apology as a precondition for its reporter’s return to the
State House.

“In this dispensation, vindictive and overbearing
security operatives, like Abubakar, ought to bear three things in mind
as they carry out their duties.

“One, Nigeria is a democracy, the martial antecedents of its current president notwithstanding.

“Two, those who hold positions of authority do so at the pleasure of the public.

“Three, public servants, no matter how influential, are mere tenants in the corridors of power,” The Punch said.

Mr. Abubakar highlighted some of Mr. Adetayo’s stories he found problematic in his correspondence to presidency officials.

“Olalekan
Adetayo, the State House correspondent for the Punch Newspapers, in his
Saturday column of April 22, 2017, titled: “Seat of powers event
centres going into extinction,” reported that currently there have been
less or no activity at the seat of power. Adetayo mentioned that
important venues such as Council Chambers, Presidential Banquet Hall and
State House Conference Hall have been left empty for a long time and
are all gathering dust.

“He also claimed that no event had been held in the Council Chambers in at least the last two months.

“Similarly,
he claimed not to have remembered the last time the president received
letter of credence from newly posted Ambassadors and High Commissioners
at the Presidential Banquet Hall.

“He, however, failed to state
whether there had been any instance where a newly posted diplomat was
denied access presenting his letter of credence to the president.

“Also,
subject (Mr. Adetayo) mentioned Guest House in the Villa, House Seven,
and claimed that political meetings were held there by the last
administration and faulted that no such meetings have been held there
since the inception of this administration.

“He, therefore, hoped
that the proposed law for unoccupied buildings in Abuja will not affect
the buildings in the Presidential Villa, and posited that the
development is a sign of the end of time,” Mr. Abubakar said.

The
CSO also raised concerns over a story about alleged cover-up of
President Buhari’s health situation, which The Punch led with on Sunday.

The
report said some State House staffers were allegedly growing
increasingly sceptical about the president’s ill-health, especially as
he had been rarely sighted in public since he returned to the country
from a 50-day medical vacation on March 10.

The report suggested
that the president’s fragile health might have prevented him from
meeting some of his top officials, including ministers, adding that most
of the duties in the presidency had been passed to Vice President Yemi
Osinbajo.

Mr. Abubakar said the stories were not true and that
Mr. Adetayo allegedly denied authorship of the story on the president’s
ill-health, owned up to wrongdoings about his limited contribution and
“pleaded for leniency, promising that he will not repeat such ‘grievous’
mistake.”

“On the lead story in the Sunday publication of the
paper, subject stated that he was not the author of the story but was
only asked and pressurised by his editor to get the State House reaction
to make up the story which he did by enquiring from the Special Adviser
to the President on Media, Femi Adesina.

“However, when asked to
put his explanation and plea into writing, he maintained that what he
wrote on the Satrurday column was based on his observations,” Mr.
Abubakar said.

The CSO said he met Mr. Adetayo on Monday in the presence of the chairman of the State House Press Corps, Ubale Musa.

Mr.
Musa, a Deutsche Welle reporter who was himself ejected from the State
House in the last days of the Jonathan administration, confirmed to PT
that Mr. Adetayo verbally apologised, but that he was not privy to the
content of his colleague’s written statement to the CSO when asked if
he, indeed, denied authorship of the Sunday story.

“I don’t know what he wrote in his statement,” Mr. Musa said. “I only know he apologised.”

Abubakar
also accused Mr. Adetayo of reporting on security personnel allowances
and accidental discharge in the State House with little attempt to
balance and get the facts of the stories.

“All these were reeled
out with the mischeivous intent especially as he championed the stories
inspite of being cautioned and advised by his colleagues as well as the
chairman of the State House Press Corps to be circumspect and objective
in his reportage,” Mr. Abubakar stated.

“Aggregating the
foregoing and the interactions with the reporter smack of
irresponsibility and mischief as Adetayo’s stories in Saturday column of
the Punch Newspaper of April 22, 2017, lacked objectivity which is one
of the cardinal principles of journalism.

“Similarly, his
belligerence and non-repentance on his ways suggest his desperation to
satisfy some subterranean interests of certain individuals who are bent
on undermining the government.

“In view therefore, Olalekan
Adetayo is deemed to have lost the privilege of representing his media
outfit in the State House…”

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