The presidency said yesterday that the interviews the United States (US) Cable News Network (CNN) had with President Goodluck Jonathan were entirely a private initiative by an American public relations firm, Fleishman-Hillard.
It said the federal government didn't pay a dime to facilitate them.
It was reacting to a story by LEADERSHIP on Thursday, in which the paper quoted a report by an online media, Premium Times as saying that Fleishman-Hillard Inc had admitted that it arranged the CNN interview for Jonathan at the cost of $40,000 and not the $60,000 initially fixed for the exercise.
But LEADERSHIP did not in any way quote the online paper as saying it was the federal government that paid the said money, as the report by Premium Times was silent on who paid for the interview.
The presidency source, who spoke to our correspondent at the presidential villa on condition of anonymity since he was not the spokesman but was involved in the arrangement then, said the report was incorrect, as all the interviews Mr. Jonathan had with CNN in 2010/2011 were arranged directly with CNN and not through any agency.
He said: "It is ridiculous for anybody to say that the federal government spent one dollar to facilitate CNN interview with President Jonathan. No government official has paid any firm to help the government facilitate any interview for Mr. President. The story is false, malicious and designed to tarnish the image of the president. All the interviews Mr. President had with CNN in 2010/2011 were all arranged by the president's media department."
Explaining further on Fleishman-Hillard's role alongside the government in the whole issue, the source noted that it were some friends of the president in 2011 who approached a Nigerian firm to assist in arranging a series of events for the president while he was attending the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.
He added that, while it was this company that brought in the US firm as consultants, the entire arrangement, however, fell through because there was no provision in the president's schedule to accommodate the programme drawn up by the outfit.