Alleged defamation: Atiku demands N500m, apology from Buhari’s aide

The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the February election, Atiku Abubakar, has demanded N500m and a written apology from an aide to President Muhammadu Buhari on social media, Lauretta Onochie, for allegedly spreading lies capable of damaging his reputation.

 The former Vice-President said Onochie’s post in her Twitter handle, which read, ‘Atiku on UAE watch list-Security Sources,’ was ill-motivated and designed to instigate security agents against him across the world.

 Atiku in a letter addressed to Onochie by his lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), stated that he was never on any such list and challenged Onochie to prove her allegation.

He threatened to sue Onochie for N2bn and cyberbullying if she failed to meet his demands.

The letter partly read, “Our client categorically denies each and every allegation contained in the said publication which is a figment of your imagination. 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 Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal against your employer and boss, President Muhammadu Buhari.”

 Ozekhome contended that Atiku had never been denied entry into the UAE or interrogated by the country’s authorities, adding that his client had also not been declared wanted by the UAE authorities contrary to the “derogatory, disparaging, mendacious and unrestrained defamatory statement,” by Onochie.

 The letter added, “It is quite revealing that even as we write this letter, our client is presently in the UAE and has not been accosted by any security agencies over the said frivolous and baseless allegations.

 “To say our client is shopping for terrorists 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.

 “Your odious publication is clearly also aimed at rubbishing our client’s image and reputation. It has caused him national and international backlash and embarrassment and done incalculable damage to him.”

The letter claimed the publication had also caused Atiku “unspeakable odium, obloquy, hatred, ridicule and psychological trauma” while he had also been subjected to the shame and infamy of being viewed as a terrorist and sponsor of terrorism.

 “Consequently, we have our client’s instructions to demand and we hereby demand from you the following: That you publish and tender a written retraction and apology for the said libellous publication in six national dailies circulating in Nigeria and one international daily as well as on all social media platforms wherein the said publication was made.

 “That you pay to our client through the firm, the sum of N500,000,000 only representing minimal damages to assuage his already battered image wholly caused by your said defamatory publication.

 “Take notice that if you fail or refuse to accede to our 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 be in such a suit claiming against you the sum of N2bn representing exemplary aggravated and punitive damages.”

Ozekhome threatened to pursue a criminal charge against Onochie in the event of further malicious and libellous publication against Atiku.
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