AN odd newspaper report was published as front-page news by the Saturday edition of the Leadership Newspaper of July 21, 2012. C0-written by the newspaper journalists Abiodun Oluwarotimi and Chuks Ohuegbe and titled Corruption: Nigerians in the US Set for Mega Protest, it reported what was said to be an upcoming protest against “alleged cases of corruption, money laundering, abuse of power and sundry civil rights violations” by the current Nigerian ambassador the United States, Mr. Ade Adefuye.

altAccording to the report, the protest march is being organized by an organization known as International Human Right Monitors, IHRM, supposedly in conjunction with other human rights organizations whose identities were not revealed by the Leadership reporters. Leadership however revealed that IHRM is headed by a Mr. Carlisle Umunna, who in conjunction with another US-based Nigerian, Mrs. Carol Oluwabufunmi, are the brains behind the planned “mega protest” billed to hold on Thursday, July 26.

Recently, a few online news publishing outfits based in the United States, particularly the Kansas City-based sharpedgenews.com who appears to have originally broken the story in a May 11, 2012 report, had told of how bank accounts belonging to the Nigerian embassy in Washington D.C. may have been closed down by the host American banking institutions as a result of possible sharp practices on the part of the Administration of the embassy under the leadership of Ambassador Adefuye.

Later reports on the issue of alleged corruption however included Adefuye’s version of events, saying that while the accounts were indeed closed by the banking institutions involved, the development had more to do with the operational conveniences of these banks than it had to do with corruption by embassy officials. According to these reports, the stringent demands that came with the laws of the United States (as part of the Patriot Act) to checkmate the movement of illicit funds across international borders by terrorist organizations influenced the banks’ decision to terminate their services with the Nigerian embassy, among other diplomatic missions to the United States.

But seemingly unconvinced by the reasons given by the Nigerian embassy officials, a certain number of Nigerian individuals based in the United States have pressed on with allegations of financial improprieties on the part of the ambassador, citing among other things, the case of the “missing” funds that accrued from the sale of a Nigerian government-owned property in the Washington D.C. area, which reportedly sold for $25 million.

A closer look at Saturday’s front-page news story written by Leadership’s Messrs. Oluwarotimi and Ohuegbe will however trigger an alert in the mind of any fairly informed observer of the events surrounding the story.

First is the name Carlisle Umunnah, a self-described “freelance journalist” who runs a quixotic website by the name republicreport.com, which was repeatedly referenced in the Leadership newspaper report as the source of the details of the planned protest. Mr. Umunnah is also, according to the Leadership newspaper, the “executive director” of the International Human Rights Monitors, which is different from the more established and respected Human Rights Watch, HRW. Umunnah’s IHRM is the same group mentioned in the Leadership newspaper report as the organization responsible for the upcoming protest.

Another name mentioned in the report as part of the organizers of the protest is Carol Olubufunmi. Olubufunmi is a Maryland-based Nigerian who had accused the ambassador of using his offices to defraud her of over half a million dollars. Ambassador Adefuye has denied this, saying that Ms. Olubufunmi instead tried using her unregistered and therefore illegal organization, Pan African Women Network, to make money off Nigerians and the Nigerian government by staging allegedly phony conferences to which Mrs. Amina Sambo, wife of Vice-President Namadi Sambo was invited only to meet a near-empty events hall with only 3 people – Olubufunmi, her daughter and a friend – waiting.

One name missing from the roll-call of organizers of this schadenfreude is that of Mr. Emeka Ugwonye, a lawyer who now has his license to practice law suspended in the US state of Maryland, where he is based as the aforementioned Mrs. Carol Oluwabufunmi. According to Ambassador Adefuye, Mr. Ugwonye is the arrowhead of the series of publications and protests targeted at him and the Nigerian embassy in retaliation for being brought before the law courts by the Embassy for failing to make available a certain large sum of money belonging to the Nigerian embassy.

The curious part of all this is this: how does an established newspaper as Leadership end up giving such kind of front-page audience to persons with so much to answer for, not only on issues of personal integrity, but also as persons who a]. may be using such audiences as granted by the paper to damage the hard-earned integrity of others and b]. may be using Leadership to promote quite possibly phony objectives?

And how about that headline used in Leadership’s ‘Cover Story’ as Corruption: Nigerians in the US Set for Mega Protest? Isn’t it rather misleading, one must ask, to give the impression that there is some groundswell of protestation in the offing by “Nigerians in the US,” when the protesters might quite well be a motley crew of fraudulent individuals desperate to detract attention from their personal troubles while leading their audiences into believing that they are waging a battle against official corruption within the Nigerian diplomatic establishment?

What kind of editorial management goes on at Leadership newspapers anyways, which made it possible for people to use a newspaper of its status and position to propagate what appears to be a vastly exaggerated importance, both of these persons and of the cause for which they purport to campaign?

Not lost on observers is that three persons, who have been identified as the major organizers of this so-called anti-corruption protest billed for Thursday, are persons with shady backgrounds. It is bad enough that they will be leading anyone on a campaign for integrity in administration. But worse is that a newspaper currently budding to be a publication of repute is probably being used as a vehicle to promote dubious causes under the guise of some positive agitation.

It will be in Leadership’s best interests to look into how its stables may have been infiltrated to serve cavalier causes.