Members of the Lagos State House of Assembly have described the allegations of fraud levelled against the Speaker, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, as unfounded.
They challenged his detractors to provide evidence of the allegations even as the Speaker, through his lawyer, Mr. Lawal Pedro (SAN), has demanded a retraction.
Pedro said the medium published a “vile” and “denigrating” report with the headline: ‘Exposed: Speaker of Lagos Assembly, Obasa, Awards Contracts to self through company Registered in son’s name’.
The report claimed that Obasa used a company known as De Kingrun Multipurpose Nigeria Limited to secure contracts from the assembly and ministries for himself to launder public funds.
The medium also claimed that to avoid the company being directly linked to him, Obasa used the names of his father, wife and children to register the company.
It alleged that Obasa owns several other companies (listed in the publication) which he used to receive contracts from the assembly.
Pedro, in a demand letter to medium, said the unsubstantiated claims repeated in the reports confirmed Obasa’s suspicion “that you and your organisation for reasons best known to you are pre-occupied with personal resentment and hatred neither warranted, necessary, proper nor justified against him”.
The SAN, in the April 30 letter, added: “We were able to confirm that the House of Assembly has never at any time engaged or awarded any contract to any of the listed companies in the publication.
“Therefore, we find the publication utterly absurd, abusive, malicious and amount to irresponsible journalism to deliberately tarnish the image of the Honourable Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly (our client).
“Our client has been greatly injured in his credit, character and reputation and in his office and has been brought to unwarranted hatred, ridicule, public scandal, odium and contempt before his friends, associates, constituents, the state, the country and the world as a whole.
“No responsible media organisation will hide under media freedom or freedom of expression to deliberately peddle false and malicious statement to injure any citizen’s reputation and credit.
“In the circumstance, it is our client’s instruction and we hereby demand of you, within seven days of receipt of this letter a retraction of the said false, malicious and defamatory publication against our client through your online publication, social media platforms and three national newspapers circulating in Nigeria. You are also to tender a written unreserved apology to our client for the publication.
“Take notice that, if you fail, refuse or neglect to meet our client’s humble request within the stipulated number of days, we have his further instruction to commence legal action against you and your organisation for the malicious defamatory publication and to claim N1billion damages,” Pedro writes.
The Clerk of the assembly, Mr. Azeez Sanni, said the report was aimed at portraying them in a bad light.
He clarified that the sum covers various expenditure for the maintenance of the Office of the Chief of Staff, special advisers, office of the Chief Press Secretary, Special Assistant (Protocol), Special Assistant (Research and Development), Special Assistant (Women Affairs), and 15 Special Assistants engaged to attend to the growing demands and speciality of the House.
Sanni added: “I must also state that these expenditures have been in existence prior the emergence of Speaker Obasa. In fact, it is dated back to as far as 2012 when it was N27 million monthly and I have the document here to show that the expenditure had been in existence since 2012.”
On the allegation that the company handling the project was registered in 2015, the same year Obasa emerged as Speaker, the Clerk wondered how a company supposedly registered in 2015 would be engaged in 2018 if it is truly in the Speaker’s interest.
The lawmaker representing Somolu Constituency 1 and Chairman House Committee on Finance, Rotimi Olowo, said Sahara Reporters was known for publishing misleading reports.
“I believe if it is truly investigative journalism that the medium is practising, it should get the other side of the issue before they rush to publish lies.
“The medium is known to publish lies as they published recently that former House of Representatives Speaker was dead. But this is one that you can really see that the medium was telling lies because we have a procurement law and there are procedures stated by the law.
“If a contractor makes an overture to the House for contract bidding, it is not just what he came with but what the House eventually agree.
“I remember in 2012, I was a member of this House and I remember the amount that was budgeted was N27milliom monthly but when Obasa emerged as Speaker he reduced it to N17 million.
“I think medium needs to be cautioned as it has shown that whatever that is giving them is published without crosschecking.
“Mr. Speaker, this House has the power to sue because the lies by this medium are getting too much.”
The lawmaker representing Ifako Ijaiye 2, Temitope Adewale, who corroborated Olowo, stated that Sahara Reporters publisher was a presidential loser who was accused of mismanaging his party’s campaign fund.
“We don’t need to waste our time over his publication. We can explore the legal means by suing the medium,” said Adewale.