THE ball remains firmly un-played in the court of Omoyele Sowore, publisher of the popular online medium, saharareporter.com as Senate President; Dr Bukola Saraki called him out last week. It is indeed curious that a clear week after all the weighty allegations made against Sowoye in a statement issued by Yusuph Olaniyonu, Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to Saraki, the United States of America based publisher has not made as much a whimper in denunciation of any of the claims.
Now that is unusual. When the publisher of a well-respected news outlet like saharareporters is accused of misdemeanours including extortion, blackmail and rumour peddling, you do not only expect a rebuttal but a swift one at that. How did we arrive at this juncture to in the first instance?
In a report with the headline: “Theft of Paris Club Refund: Saraki Claimed He Borrowed N5b from Dangote to fund Buhari’s election,” Saharareporters had alleged that “Saraki grabbed for himself at least N3.5 billion” from the refund of over-deducted Paris Club repayments from monthly allocations to states as demanded by governors.
The report, which is the third in a series of publications on the subject by saharareporters, quoting an unnamed source at the offices of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), further alleged that: “Mr. Saraki also colluded with the Governors’ Forum to send N5 billion out of the funds to multi-billionaire businessman, Aliko Dangote. Our source said where the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had assisted the Governors’ Forum to have access to the funds.”
The report said that Dangote rejected the money, which was allegedly transferred to him; insinuating that the billionaire businessman turned down the money because it was paid to him through banking transactions that could be traced. It suggested that Dangote really wanted the money.
But Saraki’s Special Assistant punctured all these allegations in the statement quoted above. Aside from insisting that this extant report was a figment of the writer’s imagination, it alleged the establishment of a pattern of stories targetted at destroying Saraki’s personality by the publication and suggested that these stories were sponsored by people who have ulterior motives.
The statement issued by Olaniyonu read: “Sowore has consistently engaged in this game of defaming Saraki since the election of the Senate President on June 9, 2015, believing that he and his sponsors will, through lies, mischief and libelous publications, bring Saraki down in a matter of days.
“We recall how at the commencement of the case on Asset Declaration at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, he was reeling out lies, which the proceedings in the CCT have since proved to be untrue. At the recent sitting of the tribunal, the key Prosecution Witness from the Code of Conduct Bureau admitted that in September 2015 when they filed the case against Saraki, there was no evidence against him.
“We recall that this same Sowore had alleged that Saraki bribed a former Chief Justice of Nigeria to influence the CCT case. This has since proved to be a lie that cannot be supported by any fact. Later, he shifted his bribery allegation to the Director of Public Prosecution in the Federal Ministry of Justice, who he claimed was induced to withdraw the CCT case. This has since been proved to be another bare-faced lie. He later alleged that the Senate President had influenced the verdict of a judgment at the Court of Appeal, which was then arrested. That was another fabrication not supported by any fact.
Other areas where he had concocted lies against Saraki were the allegation that the Senate President was involved in the Sambo Dasuki fund saga. That was another lie. Again, when there was a robbery incident involving money owned by a Bureau de Change, Saharareporters claimed Saraki owned the money. This has been proved to be lies; just as this claim of N3.5bn payment by NGF has not been supported by any fact.”
The statement queried Sowore’s motive and alerted Nigerians to the fact that: “nothing that depicts corruption more than the circulation of falsehood and engaging in the game of blackmail” by a “character claiming to fight corruption and acting on behalf of the public while in actual fact he is profiting from this game of deception, peddling wrong information and false news.”
Saraki’s office then alleged that Sowore was a double-faced human being who hides under the cover of journalism to perpetrate falsehood on behalf of some alleged sponsors and expressed readiness to provide evidence that Sowore “goes after those not ready to pay his price. That is why he has continued to live beyond his legitimate means. We are set to expose his game and let people see him for what he is.”
This is the second time Sowore would be accused of blackmail and related activities in the short three months of this year. Sometime in January, United Kingdom-based Lekan Fatodu had accused Sowore of blackmail, defamation and assault. Although this issue eventually drew the attention of the police, with Fatodu threatening to take the matter to court, nothing has been heard of the matter after the few days in which it raged. Things might however not go the same way with the Saraki case as the Senate President has vowed to employ everything within his power not just to clear his name but show the world that Sowore is not exactly what he claims to be. And Nigerians wait for the end of this epic battle.
- Salami write from Ibadan.