Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: We Received U.S.$40,000 for Jonathan's CNN Interview - U.S. Firm

Photo: Premium Times
President Goodluck Jonathan

A United States-based communication firm, Fleishman-Hillard Inc, has admitted that it arranged a Cable News Network (CNN) interview for President Goodluck Jonathan for a fee, claiming, however, that it only received $40,000 and not the $60,000 as initially agreed, an online medium, the Premium Times, reports.

According to the online outfit, the US firm made this revelation in an email reply to its enquiries, adding that parts of planned "communication services", including media interviews for the president in 2010, were later suspended, with equivalent $20,000 reduction in its fees.

According to the Premium Times, the development implies that for arranging one interview, the firm was paid $40,000. The online medium also claimed that the US firm did not state which media interview went through, but said the service was in support of Jonathan 's trip to New York for the 2010 United Nations General Assembly.

"Due to urgent ad-hoc meetings held for the African nations at the 2010 UN General Assembly, the original services proposed were not able to be fully executed," a Nigerian firm, Quadrant Company, representing Fleishman-Hillard, said in an e-mailed response to Premium Times.

The company said "planned media interviews and other services" for the president were cancelled with only one appointment rescheduled for a later date. As a result, Fleishman-Hillard fees were more than $20,000 less than those originally proposed," the statement added.

But Premium Times reports that the US firm's claim is inaccurate on the grounds of the documents in its possession. In one of the documents, Fleishman-Hillard informed its contact in the Nigerian presidency that although it was unable to get an interview for Jonathan in the United States, it succeeded in getting the CNN to interview the president in Nigeria.

The reaction followed an earlier report by the online medium on how the president paid thousands of dollars to agents for arranging interviews with foreign media outlet, a choice seen as wasteful and unnecessary.

Documents available to online outfit indicate that Fleishman-Hillard Inc anchored the deal with the Nigerian presidency through Enyi Odigbo, chairman of Lagos-based advertising and public relations company, Caesar's Group.

In the bill, seen by Premium Times, the company requested $59, 200 from the Nigerian government for arranging an interview for President Jonathan with the CNN Nigerian affiliate in late 2010.

The interview, anchored by Isha Sesay, held in Aso Rock in Abuja on September 30, 2010, in preparation for the Golden Jubilee Celebration of Nigeria's Independence.

Fleishman-Hillard was also to contact other foreign media outlets such as Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Reuters, as Mr. Jonathan planned at the time to announce his intention to run for president in 2011. The firm only delivered on the CNN interview.

A response, signed by Bolaji Okusaga, the managing director of Lagos-based The Quadrant Company, who is representing Fleishman-Hillard in Nigeria, said a part the contract awarded to the company was suspended "at the last minute" due to the exigency of time.

The company denied carrying out lobbying activities for the presidency, and said what it offered to the presidency was a "one-time assignment".

"Fleishman-Hillard has not provided any service to the Office of the President since that time," the firm said.

Since taking office early 2010, some of the president's key decisions have been made public on foreign outlets, mainly the CNN.

Jonathan had delivered his first public comments on late President Umaru Yar'Adua's health in an interview with CNN's Christiana Amanpour in 2010, where he spoke of how the ailing president's family blocked him from seeing him.

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