Defamation: Atiku demands apology, retraction, N500m as damages from Buhari’s Aide

The Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23, 2019 general election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has demanded that the Special Assistant to the President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, apologise, retract and pay him the sum N500 million as damages for the defamatory statement/publication against him.

In a letter dated May 14, 2019, Atiku, through his counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) said the vile and denigrating publication with the caption, “Atiku on UAE watchlist – Security Sources”, was made available to the whole world on the twitter handle page of the S. A media to the President.

He said the defamatory publication against the person of Atiku was allegedly made on 7th May 2019 and that, “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 destabilizing 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 you vide your tweet on the 7th day of May 2019, was published by several newspapers nationwide and on several social media news blogs”, the letter stated.

Ozekhome said his client (Atiku) categorically denies each and every allegation contained in the said publication which is a figment Of the imagination of the Onochie.

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“Our client states most emphatically that the entire opprobrious and denigrating story above referred to is most misleading, baseless, false, malicious and totally bereft of any foundation howsoever.

“We hereby state most emphatically that the inference and grave conclusions made by you in the obviously politically orchestrated story were invented by you and others of your ilk solely to cause maximum damage to the high reputation of our client, who is currently before the Election Petition Tribunal against your employer and boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, challenging the latter’s purported victory in the last presidential election.

“Contrary to your derogatory, disparaging, mendacious and unrestrained defamatory statement, as published in various print, electronic and online media platforms, of and concerning our client, our client is not and hås never been on the watch list of the UAE, or any other country, for that matter.

“He has neither ever been denied entry into, interrogated, nor been declared wanted by the UAE authorities, or any of its security agencies”, the letter said adding that Atiku is presently in the UAE and has not been accosted by any security agencies over the said frivolous and baseless allegations.

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

He said the odious publication was also aimed at rubbishing our client’s image and reputation, which has caused him national and international backlash and embarrassment and done incalculable damage to him.

“Your publication has also caused our client, in the eyes of reasonable members of the public, unspeakable odium, obloquy, hatred, ridicule, psychological trauma and has been subjected to the shame and infamy of being viewed by members of the public as not only corrupt, but as a terrorist and sponsor of terrorism”.

Numerous telephone calls, emails, visits, letters and private social media chats by Atiku’s 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 the false publication.

According to the letter, Atiku is demanding that Onochie publish and tender a written retraction for the said libelous 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.

The former Vice President wants the President’s Special Assistance to pay him, “the sum of N500 million, representing minimal damages to assuage his already battered image wholly caused by her defamatory publication, and that if she fails, 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, representing exemplary, aggravated and punitive damages. This shall be in addition to our demands in the paragraphs above and take further notice that in the event that there occurs any further malicious and libelous publication against our client, we shall be compelled to pursue a criminal charge against you”, the letter said.

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