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Published On: Sun, Jul 8th, 2018

Abacha Loot: AGF Sues Online Newspaper, Demands N5bn Damages

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The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) has dragged prime-mover of an online newspaper, ‘’Cable Newspapers Limited’’, Mr Simon Kolawole before the Federal Capital Territory High Court over alleged publication of false and defamatory article on his platform.

The Cable Newspaper had in an article published on December 22, 2017 titled, ‘’EXCLUSIVE: Sleaze hits $321m Abacha loot recovery as Malami creates ‘job for the boys’’ alleged that the celebrated imminent repatriation of $321 million stolen by Sani Abacha, former military ruler, has run into a storm with suspicious moves that may amount to “re-looting the loot” through the backdoor.

The online paper stated that, ‘’The Nigerian lawyers, Oladipo Okpeseyi, a senior advocate, and Temitope Isaac Adebayo, were engaged in 2016 apparently to duplicate the job of the Swiss lawyers and get their own cut from the already done deal. Incidentally, Okpeseyi and Adebayo were lawyers to the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the legacy party of President Muhammadu Buhari. Malami was legal adviser to CPC’’.

Malami said the three false and defamatory articles Simpon Kolawole published on his online news platform on December 22, 2017, April 9, 2018 and May 7, 2018 has exposed him to ridicule, hatred and contempt from his associates, colleagues and constituents.

Consequently, Malami asked the court to make an order compelling Simon Kolawole and his online newspaper to pay him the sum of N5 Billion as general damages for the injury to reputation of office of the AGF and accompanying consequential psychological and mental tortures/stress suffered by him from the Defendants’ defamation.

‘’By the defamatory publications the integrity of the office of the 1st Claimant (AGF) and the person of the 2nd Claimant (Malami) has been lowered both locally and in the comity of nations the recovered Abacha loot of $321 Million having been recovered from a foreign land.

’’The 2nd Claimant states that he has enjoyed the rare privilege of getting to the top echelon of legal practice as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and acting as the number one law officer in the Federation because of the high regard and trust reposed in him by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the good people of Nigeria, the legal community and the international community. However, following the disparaging, false and defamatory publications by the Defendants he has been exposed to ridicule, hatred and contempt from his associates, colleagues and constituents.

‘’ The Claimants states that the false and malicious publications which were published and generated by the Defendants on or about 22nd December, 2017, 9th April, 2018 and 7thMay, 2018 respectively were widely circulated and retweeted on account of which renowned bloggers in the social media space like J.J Omojuwa through his twitter handle @Omojuwa labeled the 2ndClaimant as the most corrupt Attorney General of the Federation and equated him with Mrs. Dieziani Alinson Madueke, who was a former Minster of Petroleum and notoriously reported in media circles to be corrupt.  J.J Omojuwa has 562,300 followers as at the time of the republication and he was following 3,186 bloggers whose capacity to share and retweet the false and malicious publication were very high. The said republication is hereby pleaded and shall be relied upon at trial’’, Malami said.

He therefore asked the court to declare the said articles titled ‘Exclusive: Sleaze hits $321m Abacha loot recovery as Malami creates ‘job for the boys’, Abacha Loot: Adeosun blocks $17m dubious payment to Malami’s lawyers’ and Exclusive: US blocks Malami’s lawyers from taking a cut on $500m Abacha Loot’ published on December 22, 2017, April 9, 2018 and May 7, 2018 respectively as defamatory against him.

AGF asked the court to direct the Defendants to remove from their server in its entirety the said defamatory articles published by the Defendants on or about 22nd December, 2017, 9th April, 2018 and 7th May, 2018 respectively or any similar article whatsoever.

The trial court was also enjoined to direct the Defendants to issue a public apology and retraction of the defamatory publications and cause such apologies and retractions to be published in www.thecable.ng and in four (4) national dallies in Nigeria with wide readership.

 In suit filed on his behalf by Amr Ade Okeaya-Inneh (SAN), Malami asked the court further to make an of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants either by themselves, agents, servants, privies or through any other person(s) from further writing or publishing the said or similar words against or in respect of the Claimants.

 Malami who threatened that if the defendants failed to enter appearance within fourteen days after the service of this writ on them, inclusive of the day of such service, that he may proceed, and judgment may be given in their absence, insisted that the cost of this suit would also be borne by the defendants.

Malami avers that he has no interest whatsoever in the appointment of the two Nigerian lawyers: Messers Dipo Okpeseyi & Co (SAN) and Messers Tope Adebayo LLP (recovery agents) were duly appointed by the federal government as recovery agents vide a letter with Ref. No: HAGF/REC/2016/VOL.1/2 and power of attorney dated 6th January, 2016 for the repatriation of the General Abacha loot stashed in foreign jurisdictions after an objective consideration of their application for offer of service as recovery agents dated 24th December, 2015

. The minister states that following their appointments the recovery agents made several trips to London, Jersey and Switzerland and after series of negotiations the sum of $321 Million including interests thereon was repatriated back to Nigeria.

 He insisted he does not have any pecuniary interest whatsoever in the professional fees which the recovery agents are entitled to from their services.

This is just as he draws attention to the fact that prior to the appointment of the recovery agents, Mr. Enrico Monfrini a Swiss National who was previously appointed to conduct the recoveries did not serve the interests of the country ostensibly because he received his professional fees upfront and years before his principal, the Federal Government got her proceeds from the engagement.

The case which was filed in Friday is yet to be assigned to any judge

In Malami’s statement of claim in the suit he listed ‘’The Cable Newspaper Limited’’ and Simon Kolawole as the 1st and 2nd defendants respectively and also listed AGF and himself as the 1st and 2nd claimants, he stated that ‘’the 1st Claimant is the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. He is the Chief Law Officer of the Federation.

‘’The 2nd Claimant is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and the individual who currently sits in office as the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. As a politician, the 2nd Claimant contested election into the Office of Member of House of Representatives in 2007. In 2015, he contested as an aspirant for the Gubernatorial election in Kebbi State under the Platform of All Progressives Congress. He was also a former National Legal Adviser of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and acted as a Member of the Board of Trustee in the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). He is a responsible family man married with children.

 ‘’The 1st Defendant is a company duly registered under the Companies and Allied Matters Act to engage in the business of newspaper and online news publication. It engages in its business vide its online platform www.thecable.ng.

 ‘’The 2nd Defendant is the Chief Executive Officer and the alter ego of the 1stDefendant’s news medium.

 ‘’The Claimants states that on or about the 22ndDecember, 2017, the Defendants published a false and defamatory article on its online news platform known as www.thecable.ng against the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and the person of the occupant. The online publication of 22nd December, 2017 is hereby pleaded and shall be relied upon at the trial of this suit.

‘’The Claimants states further that the publication by the Defendants on or about 22nd December, 2017 was a disparaging publication titled:- ‘Exclusive: Sleaze hits $321m Abacha loot recovery as Malamicreates ‘job for the boys’.

‘’By the said publication the Defendants insinuated that the Claimants needlessly but mischievously engaged two (2) Nigerian Lawyers to dubiously duplicate the purported efforts of some Swiss Lawyers;

‘’That the Claimants purportedly re-looted the Abacha loot by carrying out (i) above; and

‘’That the 2nd Claimant was a corrupt public official when they attached his Photograph to the disparaging publication with a sub-caption ‘the looting machine’.

‘’That further to Paragraph 6 above the particulars of the disparaging statements falsely attributed to the Claimants in the publication of 22nd December, 2017, are; ‘Exclusive: Sleaze hits $321m Abacha loot recovery as Malami creates ‘job for the boys’;

‘The celebrated imminent repatriation of $321 million stolen by Sani Abacha, former military ruler, has run into a storm with suspicious moves that may amount to re-looting through the back door’;

‘’However in a suspicious move, Malami went ahead to engage two Nigerian lawyers to act on his behalf’;

‘’The Nigerian Lawyers, Oladipo Okpeseyi, a senior advocate and Temitope Issac Adebayo, were engaged in 2016 apparently to duplicate the job of the Swiss Lawyers and get their own cut from the already done deal’; ‘Duplicating the Dollar’; and ‘the looting machine’.

‘’The Claimants states further that on or about the 9th April, 2018 the Defendants published yet another false and defamatory article on its online news platform www.thecable.ngtitled:- ‘Abacha Loot: Adeosun blocks $17m dubious payment to Malami’s lawyers’ wherein they disparaged the Office of the 1st Claimant and the person of the 2nd Claimant before right thinking members of the public by falsely  suggesting that the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun declined approval of the professional fees of the Nigerian lawyers engaged in the recovery of $321 Million Abacha loot because of its dubious nature. The online publication of 9thApril, 2017 is hereby pleaded and shall be relied upon at the trial of this suit.

 ‘‘’The Claimants states that following the false and malicious publications of the Defendants on or about 22nd December, 2017, 9th April, 2018 and 7th May, 2018 respectively, their efforts in trying to totally rid the country of corruption is being considered superficial by right thinking members of the public.

‘’The Claimant states that the defamatory publication by the Defendants in their natural, ordinary and connotative meaning have been understood to mean:

‘’That the 2nd Claimant is unfit and improper in character to be trusted or reposed with the confidence of holding public office;

 ‘’That the 2nd Claimant by engaging the Nigerian Lawyers, have a motive to divert the funds recovered to further his personal interests;

 ‘’That the 2nd Claimant is mendacious and duplicitous and not worthy of position of trust;

‘’That the 2nd Claimant is of a dissolute and corrupt character; and;

‘’That the 2nd Claimant is unfit to associate with respectable persons.

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