Punch Nigeria Limited has refuted the claim by a firm, SimmonsCooper, that a story, ‘Osinbajo’s firm linked to company fingered in alleged N100bn Alpha Beta scam’, in the Saturday PUNCH of July 13, was born out of malice towards Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN).

Rather, the organisation said the investigative report was done in line with its commitment to fight all forms of societal ills, including corruption, through the dissemination of news to educate Nigerians.

The newspaper company stressed that the report was not published out of malice towards Osinbajo or anyone else, but in furtherance of its mission as a public trust beholden only to Nigeria and Nigerians.

Punch stated this in a letter by its Company Secretary/Legal Adviser, Omolara Ogunleye, in response to a pre-action letter written to it by SimmonsCooper Partners, a law firm in which Osinbajo was a Senior Partner until 2015 when he was elected as Nigeria’s Vice-President.

She said, “It is a fact that by a Return filed with the CAC sometime in November 2011, your firm was registered with the CAC as the Company Secretaries to a company named Ocean Trust Limited, which in turn is alleged to be of interest in the matters complained of against Alpha Beta.

“If, as you now say, your registration with the CAC as Company Secretaries to Ocean Trust Limited was without your knowledge or consent, then, rather than making us the object of your umbrage for simply revealing what is in the CAC records to the public, it will sound more reasonable for your firm to take it up with:

“(i) The CAC that accepted the filing of the Return and kept it in its public record as a fact concerning the entity named Ocean Trust Limited;

“(ii) Messrs Iyiola Gboyega and Akinniyi Kunle who signed as directors of Ocean Trust Limited on the Return to the CAC of your appointment as Secretaries to the Company;

“(iii) Mr Jack Oguche (phone number 0803335150) at whose presentation the return of your appointment was accepted and processed and filed in the CAC records; and

“(iv) Where the said Mr Jack Oguche proves to be a lawyer, then complain against him to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee for filing what you claim is a false return affecting your firm to the CAC.”

The newspaper house said since July 13, 2019 when it published the investigative report, which SimmonsCooper complained about, the organisation and its employees had continued to be subjected to “all manner of threats of dire consequences, including threats of a shut-down.”

Punch said while it had no reason to link SimmonsCooper with the threats, it would want it passed on that “it behoves the current occupiers of the highest public offices in the land to remember that the democracy which we, and they especially, have enjoyed since 1999 and which served as the vehicle of their ascendancy to power, was not served to Nigerians on a silver platter. Rather, it resulted from a hard-won battle against the resolute enemies of open society.”

It added, “Our publishing stable, like many other patriots, bears the bruises of this battle to promote an open and lawful society. Our business was targeted and undermined; our publications suffered incessant shut-downs; and our journalists and other staff members were subjected to intimidation, harassment and arrests by those who tried to mortgage the long-term interest of Nigeria and Nigerians for short-term gains. We, nevertheless, soldiered on stoically till Nigerians won freedom from military jackboots and democracy dawned.”

Punch said rather being narrowed down to malice towards Osinbajo or SimmonsCooper or an attempt to malign them, the investigative report should be seen as its support for the fight against corruption, which President Muhammadu Buhari had himself pronounced would kill Nigeria if not killed.

“It is, therefore, the duty of all individuals and corporate patriots, including your good self and your organisation, to support that fight.

“We support that fight by disseminating news to, and educating the public on the ills and perils of all forms of lawlessness, especially corruption. We will do all in our powers to ensure that our voice and the voices of Nigerians are not silenced again,” Punch said

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