Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has written the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, threatening a N2 billion suit over a libellous publication.
The presidential aide had on May 7, twitted on her verified twitter handle that, “Atiku On UAE Watchlist- Security Sources”. She further alleged that the former vice president might be shopping for terrorists.
However, Atiku through his counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome, on May 14, wrote Onochie, demanding for apology, retraction and payment of damages worth N500 million within 48 hours for the defamatory publication.
The letter read: “The attention of our client has been drawn to a very vile and denigrating publication with the caption, “Atiku On UAE Watch List -Security Sources”, made available to the whole world on your twitter handle page.
“The said defamatory publication against our client was made by you on 7th May, 2019. In the said publication, you, amongst other baseless allegations, falsely and maliciously accused our Client of being on the watch list of Security Operatives in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“You further falsely accused our client of shopping for terrorists in the Middle East, thereby portraying him as an evil man, mentor of terrorists, someone who has links with terrorists, and a person who is interested in destabilising the peace and unity of Nigeria.
“Your publication also portrayed our client as a security threat and terrorist to right thinking members of the public and the society at large. These baseless allegations which originated from your tweet on the 7th day of May, 2019, was published by several newspapers nationwide and on several social media news blogs such as the Cable and the WordPress.com.ng.”
“Your vile, baseless and concocted statement released on your twitter handle page and also published globally online in the social and other print media quoted you as follows;
“Atiku on UAE watchlist. Security sources Security operatives in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are keeping a close tab on a former Nigerian Vice Pres Atiku Abubakar who has been in the Middle East nation for several weeks now. What is he doing there? Me: Shopping for Terrorists?” .
The former vice president however denied each and every allegation contained in the said publication, describing it as a figment of Onochie’s imagination.
Atiku stated emphatically that the entire denigrating story was misleading, baseless, false, malicious and totally bereft of any foundation howsoever.
He equally noted that the story was politically orchestrated and invented by Onochie and others of her ilk solely to cause maximum damage to his high reputation, because he is currently before the Election Petition Tribunal against her employer, Buhari, challenging his purported victory in the last presidential election.
Contrary to Onochie’s derogatory, disparaging, and unrestrained defamatory statement, as published in various print, electronic and online media platforms, Atiku said he had not and has never been on the watch list of the UAE, or any other country, for that matter.
The former vice president also claimed that he had neither ever been denied entry into, interrogated, ‘nor been declared wanted by the UAE Authorities, or any of its security agencies, adding that he is presently in the UAE and has not been accosted by any security agencies over the said frivolous and baseless allegations.
Atiku lamented that to say he was shopping for terrorists was not only dishonest and reckless, but was a calculated and politically designed to instigate security agents against him not only in the UAE, but across the world.
He stressed that the publication was clearly aimed at rubbishing his image and reputation, lamenting that it has caused him national and international backlash and embarrassment.
He stressed further that the publication had also caused him, in the eyes of reasonable members of the public, hatred, ridicule and psychological trauma and now being viewed by members of the public as not only corrupt, but as a terrorist and sponsor of terrorism.
The former vice president noted that numerous telephone calls, emails, visits, letters and private social media chats by his family members, friends, political and business associates, and international statesmen and women in the last few days attest to the alarm and serious concerns generated by Onochie’s false publication.
Against this background, the letter added, “Consequently, we have our client’s instructions to demand and we hereby demand from you, the following; That you publish and tender a written retraction of and apology for, the said libellous publication in six national dailies circulating in Nigeria and one international daily, as well as on all the social media platforms, wherein the said publication was made.
“That you pay to our client through this firm, the sum of 500,000,000.00 (Five hundred million naira) only, representing minimal damages to assuage his already battered image wholly caused by your said defamatory publication.
“Take notice that if you fail, refuse and/or neglect to accede to our above modest demands within the next 48 hours from the date of this letter, we shall be compelled to activate the full weight of the legal machinery against you, without any further recourse to you.
“We shall, in such a suit, be claiming against you, the sum of N2 billion Naira, representing exemplary, aggravated and punitive damages. This shall be in addition to our demands in the paragraphs above.
“Further take notice that in the event that then occurs any further malicious and libellous publication against our client, we shall be compelled to pursue a criminal charge against you. We earnestly advise you to advise yourself appropriately. A stitch in times saves nine.”