Alleged Defamation: Retract Statement or Face N1bn Suit, Emefiele Tells Akpabio

Alex Enumah in Abuja

Former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, has threatened to file a whopping N1 billion suit against the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, over alleged defamatory remarks against his person.

Emefiele said he would not hesitate to go ahead with his threat if the Senate President failed to retract the alleged statement and tender a public apology.

In a letter dated February 19 and addressed to Akpabio, the former CBN boss complained that the statement by the Senate President was not only false and distorted but “clearly aimed at disparaging his character and indeed made in bad faith”. 

Emefiele’s lawyer, Mr Mathew Burkaa (SAN), claimed that the said statement which has now gone viral had the heading attached to its preface “we don’t know what crime to charge Emefiele with”.

Burkaa recalled Akpabio as saying in the video that: “So the kind of debt and the kind of economic mess that we are in, a lot of people do not understand. I remember President Obama saying you cannot know Washington until you get to Washington. So by the time we went in to look at the economic state of the country it was terrible, so the former Governor of Central of Bank of Nigeria, we didn’t even know what to charge him, whether to charge him for putting foam on the … or to charge him for illegal possession of firearms or to charge him for printing notes without income. I don’t know what we are going to charge him with. But, what I know is that, yes there is hunger today because of the policies that they took.”

According to the senior lawyer, the above statement, whether taken in their ordinary, figurative or literal meaning portrayed Emefiele as:

a. The cause of the entire hardship in Nigeria today is as a result of the policies of the previous administration.

b. A serial offender whose action is responsible for all the hardship experienced by Nigerians today.

c. A person who has committed offences that are so numerous that the government is confused as to which of the offences to prefer a charge against him.

Burkaa stated that Akpabio by virtue of his position as Senate President should know that the Federal Government had since August 14, 2023 preferred charges against Emefiele to which he had long pleaded not guilty and is presently defending same to exonerate himself and show that he is not guilty of the said allegations. 

“It is therefore disturbing, that such a statement would be made by the Head of the Legislature of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on a matter that is clearly subjudice. 

“Your statement, with the greatest respect, clearly undermines the honour and integrity of the court and its independence and indeed has the propensity of prejudicing the case against our client. Having submitted to the jurisdiction of the court, it is only fair and proper that the court should be allowed to determine the issues submitted to it without unnecessary pressure from any other arm of government,” he said.

The letter added that Akpabio’s statement, attributing the present economic woes of the country solely on Emefiele was most appalling and exposes the inaccuracies in his assertions, especially, when he (Akpabio) was a major player in the immediate past administration and worked closely with Emefiele and indeed witnessed the innovations he introduced in the banking sector and its impact on the economy whilst in office, as well as the role he played despite all odds in salvaging Nigeria in the P & ID saga and the positive result it brought for Nigeria.

“You are also aware that no single policy was carried out by our client without the approval, directive or authorization of the President and/or the Federal Executive Council of which you were a key and powerful member.

“It is pursuant to the above and without delving into the matter presently pending in court that our client has instructed that we write to your good offices and demand the immediate retraction of your statement which has gone viral and are considered clearly defamatory of our client.

“These baseless and false allegations clearly defame the character of our client and has also caused him great pains and embarrassment as it has lowered his esteem before the right thinking members of the society in addition to the obvious odium and opprobrium from the unsuspecting members of the society as a result of the falsity contained in that statement.

“We therefore have our client’s further instruction to demand from you an unreserved apology in writing, published and circulated by the same medium with which you have defamed his character and the sum of one billion naira (NI,000,000,000.00) as reasonable compensation for the willful and unjustifiable denigration of his hard earned reputation. 

“In the event that you fail, refuse or neglect to comply with this legitimate demand, our client will be at liberty to seek the appropriate redress available to him under the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the letter read in part.

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