Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) on Thursday served a notice on Sahara Reporters and one Mr Israel Olayiwola of his intention to institute a N5bn suit against them over an alleged defamatory publication against him.
Olayiwola had authored an article in Sahara Reporters against Chief Ozekhome (SAN) for joining others Nigerians to run a commentary considered critical on the on-going probe of former acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu.
Olayiwola had alleged in the publication that Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) wanted Magu dead for more reasons than one.
Ozekhome said Olayiwola in an attempt to justify his unfounded defamatory conclusion against him listed some of his alleged past activities to falsely assert that he had no moral right to condemn corruption in the country.
In a 1,308-worded warning letter by his counsel, Benson Igbanoi addressed to both Olayiwola and Sahara Reporters, the learned silk who first took his time to summarise his life trajectory to establish his integrity, denied each of the allegations made to attack his reputation and controverted each of his alleged past activities alluded to in the report while demanding an immediate and full retraction of the entire publication which he said was predicated on false claims and wilfully done to destroy all his reputation which he had struggled to build for years.
He is also demanding an unreserved public apology published on the same official social media platforms and all other channels, platforms or links through which the alleged highly libelous and malicious publications were published and circulated.
“This letter is a clear warning to give you an opportunity to accept the Olive branch extended to you by our client, whose feelings, name, character, dignity and reputation have been gravely and deeply injured by your reckless and ill-intentioned publications. A word is enough for the wise. To say more at this stage will be otiose,” the letter said.
He consequently threatened to proceed against the duo in court if after seven days, both of them failed to withdraw the said publication with unreserved apology tendered.
“TAKE NOTICE that in the event that our client is thus compelled to approach the court for redress, we shall be claiming from you and the above mentioned entity and persons, reliefs that will, in addition to the above accommodating demands, include aggravated, punitive and exemplary damages in the sum of N5 billion only.
The letter titled: A 7-DAY ULTIMATUM TO WITHDRAW AND PUBLICLY APOLOGISE TO CHIEF MIKE OZEKHOME, SAN, ON YOUR WRITE-UP TITLED, “WHY OZEKHOME WANTS MAGU DEAD! BY ISREAL OLAYIWOLA reads:
We are Solicitors to Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, LL.M, Ph.D, FCIArb, LL.D (“our client”), on whose firm instructions we write you this letter. Our client has informed us of your highly defamatory write-up of and concerning him, which you published and circulated globally on your verified website page and your other social media page and handles (with links to other numerous online and social media platforms across the world, and the print and electronic media).
In your said vile write up, you wrote, published and circulated, extremely defamatory and damaging materials against the person, character and status of our client. The said write up in its entirety, is false, baseless, unfounded, malicious, mendacious, vindictive and done in utmost bad faith and grand apostasy.
YOUR MALICIOUS AND FALSE ALLEGATIONS
In the said write-up, you falsely, recklessly and maliciously stated that:
a. Our client “wants Magu dead”.
b. Our client “lacks the moral right to condemn any person accused of corruption because he himself is corruption personified”.
c. Our client was a member of 7-man panel of inquiry instituted by the Abacha regime “to probe, restructure and reorganise the Nigerian Customs”, but that the “panel was disbanded due to allegations that the members engaged in high level corruption”.
d. “Under the current civilian administration, Chief Ozekhome has been involved in serious electoral malpractice” and that in “2007 general election, he was arrested with other armed thugs while snatching ballot boxes in Edo State. The senior lawyer was paraded by the Police to the embarrassment of the Nigerian Bar Association”. You even referred to an earlier Sahara Reporters’ edition of April 14, 2007, which our client was never aware of at that material time (but is now fully aware of, based on your recent publication now complained about, thus making your new publication intentional, deliberate and aggravating).
e. Our client “was caught and arrested while rigging for PDP”.
f. Our client, an “ex-election rigger, has been commenting on the failure of Independent National Electoral Commission to hold credible elections”.
g. “Another reason why Chief Ozekhome, SAN, wants Magu dead is that he was indicted for collecting N75 million from Mr Ayo Fayose as legal fees which turned out to be from the proceed of crime of money laundering”.
h. Our client “ran to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, SAN, for protection”.
i. Our client “twisted his story on Magu to say that he reported allegations against Mr Magu to the Vice President”.
j. Our client “claims that he had submitted evidence of corrupt practices committed by Mr Magu”.
k. Our client “committed serious electoral offences and money laundering, and (since there is) no stature of limitation against criminal offences, he should be charged to court as nobody is above the law”.
l. Our client is “a garrulous fellow” and he “should stop insulting the Nigerian people”.
THE IMPACT OF YOUR FALSE PUBLICATIONS
Our client clearly and unambiguously denies each and every allegation of fact as contained in your said vile write-up, and as highlighted above, as same are utterly false, baseless, reckless, unfounded, fallacious, malicious, ill-motivated, spiteful, cruel, malevolent, bitter and deliberately calculated to damage (and did actually damage) our client’s hard-earned image, reputation and integrity built up over the years. Our client has thereby suffered huge damage, public ridicule, odium, obloquy, derision, opprobrium, vilification, mental agony and psychological trauma.
WHO OUR CLIENT IS
Our client, inter alia, is a renowned constitutional, lawyer, leading Human Rights Activist, Notary Public, pro-Democracy campaigner, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM), Voice of the People (VOP), Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR), Author, Bencher, Member of the NBA National Executive Committee, Multi-Columnist, Motivational Speaker, Public Affairs Analyst and Knight of the Order of St Mulumba (KSM), in the Catholic Church. Our client, a dedicated family man, Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International and Pan-Nigerian patriot, who co-founded the first Human Rights Organisation in Nigeria in 1987, called the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), and other rights organisations, has participated in many constitutional conferences aimed at re-engineering the Nigerian nation. These are the 2005 National Political Reform Conference, Vision 2020 of 2009 and the 2014 National Conference.
Our client has a Ph.D (by thesis), over 7 Doctorate Degrees (hororis causa) and over 14 Fellowships from across the globe. Our client who has handled some jurisprudentially defining law cases in Nigeria, is a Counsel at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, and operates a Foundation (Mike Ozekhome Foundation, MOC), that has impacted positively on the most vulnerable members of the society. Our client has been celebrated globally with hundreds of national and international awards, honours and chieftaincy titles. He belongs to many professional and community-based organisations and Associations.
OUR CLIENT’S SPECIFIC DENIAL
Specifically, our client:
I. Has never wanted Magu dead. He does not have any reason or cause for this puerile, infantile and false allegation.
II. Has strenuously, over the years, spoken against corruption, its ills and how to curb and kill it.
III. Has never for once been arraigned, tried or convicted of any known criminal offence, whether in Nigeria, or outside Nigeria, or anywhere in the world, relating to corruption, electoral offences, or any other offence(s) howsoever.
IV. Has never received, nor been indicted for receiving any proceed of crime as professional fees, nor ever run to, or ever approached the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo, SAN, “for protection”, or for any other reason howsoever or whatsoever.
V. Has never been involved in any election rigging, electoral malpractice, ballot boxes or ballot papers-snatching, nor ever been “paraded by the Police to the embarrassment of the Nigerian Bar Association”.
VI. Never participated in any 7-man panel to probe, restructure or reorganise the Nigerian Customs, which panel was allegedly “disbanded due to allegations that the members had engaged in high level corruption”.
OUR MODEST DEMANDS
We have our client’s instructions to demand and we hereby demand for the following:
a. That you publish or cause to be published, a full retraction of the above utterly false, reckless and defamatory write-up complained about.
b. That you tender an unreserved public apology to our client on your same official social media platforms and all other channels, platforms or links through which the highly libellous and malicious publications were published and circulated.
TAKE NOTICE that if you fail, refuse and or/neglect to carry out the above modest and very friendly demands within 7 days from the date of this letter, we shall, without any further correspondence from us, institute legal proceedings against you, Sahara Reporters and those perennially egging it on, in its long-time mission of unprovoked vendetta to destroy our client’s person, honour, integrity, character, social status, profession and attributes, which he has taken decades of sweat, pains and pangs from lowly beginnings to build up.
FURTHER TAKE NOTICE that in the event that our client is thus compelled to approach the court for redress, we shall be claiming from you and the above mentioned entity and persons, reliefs that will, in addition to the above accommodating demands, include aggravated, punitive and exemplary damages in the sum of N5 billion only.
This letter is a clear warning letter to give you an opportunity to accept the olive branch extended to you by our client, whose feelings, name, character, dignity and reputation have been gravely and deeply injured by your reckless and ill-intentioned publications. A word is enough for the wise. To say more at this stage will be otiose.
Benson A. Igbanoi, Esq
Senior Associate Partner