Atiku slams N2.5bn libel suit against Buhari’s aide, Lauretta Onochie




Lauretta Onochie

Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has instituted a N2billion libel action against an aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mrs. Lauretta Onochie.

Atiku is praying the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory to punish Lauretta Onochie who is Buhari’s Special Assistant on Social Media, over a post she shared through her twitter handle on May 7.

According to Atiku, Lauretta Onochie had in the said post, portrayed him as someone on the watch list of security operatives in the United Arab Emirates, and who had travelled to shop for terrorists in the Middle East.

In the case he filed through his team of lawyers led by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, on June 26, Atiku told the court that his public image was battered by the post, to the extent that he was regarded as a security threat.

He said he would in the course of the hearing, tender call logs showing avalanche of text messages and calls he received in the aftermath of Onochie’s post.

While denying allegation that he was arrested in the UAE, Atiku, insisted that Onochie’s tweet was politically orchestrated, with the sole aim to “cause maximum damage” to what he described as his “high reputation”. He said the post was aimed to undermine his decision to challenge “the purported victory” of Onochie’s boss, President Buhari, in the last presidential election, at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.“

To say that the claimant is shopping for terrorists knowing same to be untrue and without any foundation 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,” Atiku added in his statement of claim that accompanied the suit.

He told the court that he was “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.” Besides, the former VP said he had after the post, received numerous telephone calls, emails, visits, letters and private social media chats by his family members, friends, political and business associates, as well as international statesmen and women, confirming the alarm and serious concerns the publication generated.

He said the “entire opprobrious and denigrating story” was most misleading, baseless, false, malicious and totally bereft of any foundation howsoever. He said it was “invented by the defendant and others of her ilk, solely to cause maximum damage to the high reputation of the claimant, who is currently before the Election Petition Tribunal against her employer and boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, challenging the latter’s purported victory in the last presidential election.”

Denying his alleged arrest, Atiku, told the court that he has “neither ever been denied entry into, interrogated, nor been declared wanted by the UAE Authorities, or any of its security agencies”. He said: “That Claimant was at the time of the said publication in the UAE and was never accosted by any security agencies over the said frivolous and baseless allegations.” It will be recalled that Atiku had in a letter that was dated May 14, demanded an apology, retraction and payment of N500m compensation from Lauretta Onochie to assuage the damage he said was caused him by her social media post.

He also threatened to sue her should she fail to accede to the demand within 48 hours. However, Atiku said he had no choice than to seek legal redress, since Onochie was unmoved by his demand letter. He told the court that rather than to show “remorse by retracting her earlier publication”, Onochie, on May 20, made “another derogatory publication and also published same globally online in the social and other print media” against his person.

He said sometimes in May this year, he had embarked on a foreign trip to the UAE as he had done over the years, and while on the said trip, Lauretta Onochie on May 7, 2019, wrote, through her twitter handle: “Atiku on UAE watchlist- Security sources Security operatives in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are keeping a close tab on a former Nigerian Vice Pres Atiku Abubakar who has been in the Middle Eastnation for several weeks now What is he doing there? Me: Shopping for Terrorists?” The claimant said the “defamatory publication” was also published by several newspapers nationwide and on several social media news.

He denied the allegations contained in the said publication which he described as “a figment of the imagination of the defendant”, but said it portrayed him “as an evil man, mentor of terrorists, someone who has links with terrorists, and a person who is interested in destabilising the peace and unity of Nigeria”.

“The publication also portrayed the claimant as a security threat and terrorist to right thinking members of the public and the society at large,” the former Vice-President added. He noted that “the odious publication has clearly rubbished the claimant’s image and reputation. It has caused him national and international backlash and embarrassment and has done incalculable damage to him.

Consequently, he sought eight reliefs from the court, including a declaration by the court that the publications made by Lauretta Onochie via her social media accounts on May 7, and May 20, 2019, concerning and touching on his reputation, “are utterly false, baseless, unfounded and defamatory of the Claimant, and injurious to his reputation.”

He also sought an order compelling the defendant to make a retraction of, and an apology to him for the said offensive twitter and facebook publications on the same platforms, and also to be published in three national newspapers with wide circulation within the country and also broadcast on AIT, Channels and NTA television stations.

Atiku also sought an order compelling her to write to him, “a letter of unreserved apology for the said offensive twitter and facebook publications.”

The claimant also sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining her whether by herself, her servants, agents, privies, assigns, friends and /or representatives, or otherwise howsoever, from further posting such “offensive and libelous material or any other form of defamatory statements against his person.

He asked for an order directing the defendant to pay him the sum of N2,500,000,000,000, representing general, aggravated, punitive and exemplary damages over the untold embarrassment, derision, public ridicule, odium, obloquy, marital disharmony, mental agony and psychological trauma which the Defendant’s publications have caused him.

There are plans by the Edo Peoples Movement led by Henry Idahagbon and hired thugs to disrupt peace in Benin City, the Edo State capital on Monday, July 1, under the cover of Police and Department of State Security (DSS) officials deployed from Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), checks have shown.

The plot, it was gathered, was hatched during a meeting held at Mega Touch of Klass Hotel, in Ihama, GRA, Benin City, where thugs gathered to strategise on how to cause mayhem in the state, as a last resort in the wake of public condemnation of their campaign of calumny against the state government.

The meeting was convened by the trio of Idahagbon, Osakpamwan Eriyo and Samson Osagie, who have continued their blackmail against the state government over the refusal to share public funds to them and other greedy politicians. A source, who was privy to discussion at the meeting, said the plan is to deploy violence as a bargaining chip, adding that it would be executed with the cover of Police and DSS operatives deployed from Abuja.

According to him, “The discussion at the nocturnal meeting centered on how to cause violence in the state as the state government has refused to accede to the demands of the politicians.

“The major flashpoint, according to the plan, is the State Assembly Complex. It would be a repeat of what transpired in Abuja recently where masked DSS operatives stormed the streets. That is what is likely going to play out. But we are watching.”

The source added that a lot of efforts went into the plan and that it was regrettable that the men are resorting to violence and public disturbances which had been banished in the state for a long time. Recall that the EPM led by Henry Idahagbon has been at the forefront of plans to deny Governor Obaseki a second term ticket, with their major grouse being that the governor has refused to share state funds to the few greedy politicians in the state.




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