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Nigeria’s House of Representatives car scam..Newswatch defends story

Full text of the statement issued by Newswatch management on the demand for an apology by the House of Representatives for its story on the car scam

Our attention has been drawn to a demand made on the floor of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, March 3, that Newswatch should apologise to the House in connection with our cover story of September 22, 2008 which gave details of the controversial N2.4 billion car purchase scandal involving some highly placed members of the House.

We are, to say the least, surprised by the demand of the honourable members. The magazine breached neither the law nor any journalistic ethics to warrant the demand. Our story in the tradition of the magazine was fair and balanced. Every necessary step was taken to cross-check facts and figures. The House has not disputed any part of the story. No one else has done so either.

Are the honourable members demanding an apology for our daring to publish the story and exposing the sleaze? We wonder.

When the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges was investigating the controversy, Newswatch was invited to appear before it at its October 28, 2008 sitting. We acknowledged the request by sending our Executive Editor, Bala Dan-Abu, to represent the magazine.

The committee commended Newswatch for doing a thorough job and for ensuring that it had documents on which the cover story was based. Abu was even asked if there was any need for the House to pass the into law since Newswatch had demonstrated that the media could get access to authentic documents without any laws facilitating it. He told them that if the road to his village was bad but he can still travel on it, it would not negate the fact that the road ought to be fixed.

The committee asked our Executive Editor to provide additional information on the scandal. He told the committee members there was no fresh information, but if the magazine got more fresh facts it would publish them.

He was also asked to give the source of our documents, but as it is the elementary rule of journalism (protection of sources), he declined to do so.

Our story was thoroughly investigated and as far as we are concerned, was based on authentic and incontrovertible documents. We stand by our story. We will neither retract it nor OFFER ANY APOLOGY TO THE HOUSE.

Dan Agbese

Nigeria News Online..Assemblyonline