Atiku Signs Witness Statement in N2.5bn Libel Suit against Buhari’s Aide, Onochie


Alex Enumah in Abuja

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, was yesterday at the Registry of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to sign his witness deposition before the Commissioner for Oaths, in the case he instituted against Lauretta Onochie, an aide of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Atiku, who was candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last presidential election, had in May this year threatened legal action against Onochie, who is the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Media,

The legal action was connected to a publication wherein, Onochie in her tweeter handled alleged that Atiku is on the watchlist of security operatives in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The SA to Buhari in the said publication of May 7, 2019, which was also published by many newspapers and online media platforms, also accused Atiku of shopping for terrorists in the Middle East.

Atiku had while challenging the victory of President Buhari in the February 23 presidential poll at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal and the Supreme Court, remained in the UAE until last week when he returned to the country.

In a letter dated May 14, 2019 and written on his behalf by his lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN, the former vice president described Onochie’s statement as not only vile and denigrating but a calculated attempt to disparage the person of Atiku in the eyes of right thinking members of the public.

Onochie had on May 7, 2019 in her tweeter handled alleged that, “Atiku on UAE watchlist – security sources. Security operatives in the United Arab Emirates are keeping a close tab on a former Nigerian Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who has been in Middle East nation for several weeks now. What is he doing there? Me: shopping for terrorists?”

But in his reaction, the PDP candidate, insisted that there was no iota of truth in the said publication which is beginning to affect public perception of his person, adding that the publication since it was made has caused him national and international backlash and embarrassment as well as incalculable damages.

“To say that our client is shopping for terrorists is not only dishonest and reckless but is calculated and politically designed to instigate security agents against him not only in the UAE but across the world”, Ozekhome said.

He subsequently demanded Buhari’s Special Assistant to publish and tender a written retraction of the said statement and apologise over the said libelous publication in six national newspapers, one international newspaper and all social media platforms wherein the said publication was made.

In addition, Ozekhome on behalf of Atiku had demanded that Onochie pay Atiku the sum of N500m as minimal damages to assuage Atiku’s already battered image wholly caused by her said defamatory publication.

The senior lawyer stated that failure to do so within 48 hours of receipt of Atiku’s letter would compel them to “Activate the full weight of the legal machinery against the Special Assistant to Buhari, where the sum of N2 billion would be demanded as compensation for examplery, aggravated and punitive damages”.

Atiku’s presence in court yesterday to sign his witness statement is an indication that he is set to commence legal action against President Buhari’s aide.