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Lauretta Onochie Caused Me Mental, Psychological Trauma —- Atiku Tells Court, Demands N2.5bn For Defamation

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Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has narrated before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, how President Muhammadu Buhari’s aide, Lauretta Onochie, caused him mental and psychological trauma through what he termed as fabricated offensive electronic messages.

Atiku who was the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, in the last general election, told the court that Onochie leveled series of “baseless allegations” against him on twitter and facebook, to the extent that his hard-earned reputation and all that he laboured for over the years, was destroyed.

In a witness statement on oath he personally deposed to before the court, Atiku, decried that all the alleged disparaging social media posts against him came at a time he was challenging President Buhari’s re-election before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal Tribunal, insisting that Onochie’s action was “accentuated by malice and bad faith”.

He specifically prayed the court to punish Onochie who is Buhari’s Special Assistant on Social Media, over a post she shared through her twitter handle on May 7 and on Facebook on May 20.

In a libel suit he filed through his lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, the former VP demanded for N2.5billion 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.

According to Atiku, 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 traveled to shop for terrorists in the Middle East.

He told the court that his public image was battered by the allegation to the extent that he was regarded as a security threat both within and outside the country.

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

“That I am the Claimant in this suit and by virtue of which I am seized with the facts deposed herein.

‘I am an astute politician, businessman, philanthropist and former Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“That I am a notable and respected personality in my community, Nigeria and the World at large, a distinguished elder statesman, who has served the Nigerian people, the Federal Government of Nigeria and humanity in various capacities.

“I had a sterling career in the political sector.

“That sometime in May 2019, I embarked on a foreign trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as I have done over the years.

“That while still in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the said trip, the Defendant on 7th day of May, 2019, through her twitter handle page, which is linked to, and belongs to the Defendant, published a most libelous story about me on her said twitter and also published same globally online on the social and other print media and electronic media, making the following false and unfounded allegations against me.

“Atiku on UAE watchlist-Security sources Security operatives in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are keeping a close tab on a former Nigerian Vice-President Atiku Abubakar who has been in the Middle East nation for several weeks now, What is he doing there? Me: Shopping for Terrorists?”

“That in the said defamatory publication against me made by the defendant on 7th May 2019, the defendant amongst other baseless allegations falsely and maliciously accused me of being on the watch list of Security Operatives in the United Arabs Emirates (UAE).

“The defendant further falsely accused me of shopping for terrorists in the Middle East, thereby portraying me 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. The publication also portrayed me as a security threat and terrorist to right-thinking members of the public and the society at large.

“That since the 7th day of May 2019, when the said libelous and offensive electronic message vide twitter, was sent and also published globally online `in the social and other print media, the odious publication has clearly rubbished my image and reputation.

“It has caused me national and international backlash and embarrassment and has done incalculable damage to me.

“The publication of the defendant has also caused me, in the eyes of reasonable members of the public, unspeakable odium, obloquy, hatred, ridicule, mental and psychological trauma.

“I have thereby 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 my family members, friends, political and business associate, and international statesmen and women attest to the alarm and serious concerns generated by the defendant’s false publication.

“I categorically deny each and every allegation contained in the said publication which is a figment of the imagination of the defendant. I state 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.

“I state most emphatically that the inference and grave conclusions made by the defendant in the obviously politically orchestrated story were invented by the defendant and others of her ilk, solely to cause maximum damage to my high reputation.

“That Contrary to the defendant’s derogatory, disparaging, mendacious and unrestrained defamatory statement, as published in various print, electronic and online media platforms, and as concerning me, is not and I have never been on the security watch list of UAE, or any other country, for that matter. I have neither ever been denied entry into, interrogated, nor been declared wanted by the UAE Authorities, or any of its security agencies.

“That I 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.

“That the allegation by the Defendant to the effect that I was shopping for terrorists is not only dishonest and reckless but was calculated and

“Politically, designed to instigate agents against me not only in the UAE but across the world”, Atiku averred.

He told the court that the Defendant failed to retract her allegations, despite a letter his lawyer wrote to her on May 14 to that effect.

Atiku said rather than to apologize to him, Onochie, in a follow-up post on facebook on May 20, “portrayed me to right-thinking members of the society as a depressed person without the mental fitness to hold the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or any public whatsoever.”

He said: “Further and by way of innuendo, the defamatory words complained of the above used by the Defendant also meant and were understood to mean that I am a hypocrite”.

“That after these defamatory publications by the Defendant, several people, both within and outside the country, who read the publications have called me and expressed their disappointment that they never knew that I was a man of dubious character and sponsor of terrorists, despite my apparent sterling and distinguished career in the public sector and enviable achievements in the private sector.

“Some of them challenged me to sue the author of the publications to clear my name if I believed that the publications were false.

“That it is most uncharitable of the Defendant to disparage my reputation, who has done everything humanly possible to serve Nigeria and humanity with a view to alleviating poverty and unemployment in Nigeria and beyond.

“That I deserve accolades for my personal commitment and sacrifices by creating employment and alleviating poverty through the empowerment of the youths. I have made outstanding contributions to the development of our country and humanity for which I do not deserve to be insulted or vilified.

“I plead that my character, reputation, person, psyche, honour, dignity, being and all I have ever stood for in life, have been smeared, maligned, assaulted and denigrated, without any justifiable basis by the electronic messages vide twitter and Facebook, and also published globally online in the social and other print media circulated around the World by the Defendant.

“That upon the receipt of the electronic messages vide twitter and Facebook, containing the highly libelous statements, the contents have been the subject matter of discussion in my matrimonial home and amongst other persons who heard about them both within and outside the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“That unless restrained by an order of this Honourable court, the Defendant will continue to cause to be published, the same, or similar defamatory publications against me.

“Upon the afore pleaded premises, that I am entitled to punitive, exemplary and aggravated damages, as well as injunctive reliefs against the Defendant.

“That I shall at the hearing of this suit, found upon all the documents relating to the facts pleaded herein, including, but not limited to the electronic messages vide Twitter, Facebook, other text messages, letters and e-mails from family members, concerned relatives and associate all over the World”, Atiku added.

Aside praying for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendant from making further offensive posts against him, Atiku, 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.”

BIG STORY

Pastor Arrested For Raping, Impregnating Daughter Three Times, Procures Illegal Abortion For Her

Gbemileke Ajayi

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A 44-year-old pastor of Christ Apostolic Church, Ogo-Oluwa parish, Oluwafemi Oyebola, has been arrested by the Ogun State Police Command for allegedly raping, impregnating and procuring abortion for his daughter three times.

It was gathered that the cleric had been living with his daughter since his wife, the victim’s mother, died a few years ago.

He was arrested following a complaint by his daughter at the Owode-Egbado Divisional Police Headquarters.

The state Police Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, confirmed the incident in a statement on Tuesday.

He said the victim told the police that her father had been forcefully having carnal knowledge of her since 2015 when she was 19-year-old shortly after the demise of her mother.

The PPRO said, “The victim further reported that she got pregnant for her father three times after which her father took her to a nurse where those pregnancies were aborted.

“After the third abortion, the suspect did family planning for her so she would not get pregnant again.”

Oyeyemi said the victim, upon realising that her father was out to ruin her life, ran away from the house and reported to a non-governmental organisation, Advocacy for Children and Vulnerable Persons Network.

“Consequent upon which she was taken to the Owode-Egbado Police Station to complain.

“After the report, the DPO Owode-Egbado division, SP Olabisi Elebute, led her detectives to the pastor’s house where he was promptly arrested.

“During interrogation, the suspect made confessional statements that all his daughter said was nothing but the whole truth,” the police spokesman added.

The PPRO noted that the state Commissioner of Police, Kenneth Ebrimson, had ordered the immediate transfer of the suspect to the anti-human trafficking and child labour unit of the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department for further investigation and prosecution.

In a related development, a Senior Magistrates’ Court in Port Harcourt on Monday remanded a 26-year-old man, Kelechi Nwankwo, in a correctional facility for defiling an eight-year-old pupil at his residence at Elele, Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State.

The accused, it was learnt, was a private home tutor of the victim before he allegedly committed the crime on June 23, 2020, at his house in Elele, where he coached schoolchildren.

It was gathered that the accused allegedly inserted his finger into the girl’s private parts when he was alone with her.

The police prosecutor, Ochogwu Wilberforce, told the court that the offence was punishable under Section 218 of the Criminal Code Cap. 37 Vol. II, Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria,1999.

The charge read, “That you, Kelechi Nwankwo, on June 23, 2020, at Elele Town in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, but triable in the Port Harcourt Magisterial District, did unlawfully have carnal knowledge of one (name withheld) aged 8, by inserting your finger into her vagina, thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 218 of the Criminal Code Cap. 37 Vol. II, Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria,1999.”

The Senior Magistrate, Lenu Baridam, declined jurisdiction in the matter and referred the case file to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions for legal advice.

The magistrate, however, ordered the accused be remanded in the Nigerian Correctional Service facility and adjourned till September 9, 2020.

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BIG STORY

PHOTOS: Terminal Empty, Passengers Low As Lagos Airport Reopens

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The Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal Two (MMA 2) re-opened for domestic flights on Wednesday amid poor passengers turn out.

As early as 6.00 am, airport workers, airline personnel, and security officials were already at their duty posts but only a few passengers showed up at the departure hall.

The departure hall remained scanty as the few passengers filed through security and health checks.

Airline counters expecting passengers include: Max Air, which scheduled its Lagos / Abuja flight for 7.00 am with flight number VM1640; another flight for 11.20 VM 1644 and its last flight for 15.35 with flight number VM 1642.

Information obtained from the flight display terminal at MMA 2 did not give updates on whether the flights would proceed on account of poor passenger turnout.

Another carrier: Ibom Air, which scheduled its flight for 11.00 with flight number Z4300, is not sure to embark on the flight.

The staff of DANA Air, who opened counters at MMA 2, said they will not operate any flight.

A source hinted that Aero Contractors, which opened their counters also at MMA 2, will not operate any flight.

At the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) where Arik Air and Air Peace operate, passengers turnout was more encouraging as the carriers operated flight on the Lagos / Abuja route.

Amid tight security and health checks, personnel of both carriers were busy attending to passengers.

At the GAT, Air Peace opened many counters attending to passengers.

Air Peace plans three flights with schedules for 10.30 am; 2.30 pm and 5.30 pm.

 

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BIG STORY

Corruption Allegations: Police Comb Magu’s House, As Suspended EFCC Boss Spends Second Night In Custody

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Some policemen attached to the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department on Tuesday searched the home of the suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu.

Also on Tuesday, the Justice Ayo Salami Presidential Panel, which interrogated Magu on Monday over allegations of corruption, again quizzed the suspended EFCC boss.

The suspended EFCC boss, who was detained by the police after Monday’s interrogation, was returned to the police custody at 8:30pm on Tuesday.

But earlier at 6pm, policemen searched Magu’s house located on Abduljalil Street, Karu Site, on the outskirts of Abuja and made away with vital documents.

The policemen, who carried out the search, were said to be the same ones who arrested Magu on Monday.

A police officer, who confided in The PUNCH, said, “On Tuesday evening, a team of policemen stormed the home of Magu in Karu. That is the house where Magu used to live before he moved to Maitama after his appointment as EFCC chairman.

“The policemen made away with some items and everything will be processed as investigations continue.”

It was learnt that at 8: 30p.m. Magu was driven from the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa venue of the panel’s sitting back to the Force Criminal Investigation Bureau where he passed the night on Monday.

“Yes. Magu has returned to police custody. He left the venue of the panel’s sitting at 8:30 pm and was driven back to the same police facility where he was detained on Monday,” a source told one of our correspondents on Tuesday evening.

It was gathered that before the presidential panel resumed its sitting on Tuesday, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had suspended Magu.

It was gathered that Magu was suspended to allow the Salami panel to do its job without interference from the EFCC boss.

Magu was accosted by security agents in front of the old EFCC headquarters on Fomella Street, Wuse 2, Abuja, at noon on Monday, and taken to the Presidential Villa, where he was quizzed by the panel for six hours over 24 allegations.

It was reported on Tuesday that most of the allegations against Magu emanated from a report by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), and a report of the Department of State Services, which was submitted to the Senate in 2016 and 2017.

Among others, the suspended EFCC boss was accused of living above his means, fraternising with corrupt persons and diverting recovered funds.

When the panel resumed sitting at noon on Tuesday at the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja like what happened on Monday, security operatives stopped State House reporters from gaining access into the venue.

Confirming Magu’s suspension, a source told The PUNCH, “It is commonsensical that when an investigation of this nature is ongoing, you don’t allow the person being investigated to keep the keys of the office for which he is being investigated.

“This is because if he keeps the keys, there can be a kind of tampering with documents or evidence. It is not logical and it is even undemocratic to allow such to happen.”

The Presidency has yet to issue a formal statement on the issue as of the time of filing this report.

Meanwhile, there are strong indications that the Director of Operations at the anti-graft commission, Abba Mohammed, may take over the affairs of the agency pending the appointment of Magu’s replacement.

A source said, “Deputy Commissioner of Police Mohammed, who is the director of operations, is expected to take over the running of the EFCC in acting capacity pending the appointment of a replacement for Magu.”

Meanwhile, pressure groups have been reportedly positioning various candidates for the EFCC top job.

It was learnt that some people had been pushing for the appointment of a former commissioner of police who arrested some politicians during the 2019 elections in the North-West.

Meanwhile, a top government official on Tuesday said the various allegations levelled against Magu were too weighty to be ignored.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not directed to address the press, said under the regime of Buhari nobody was above scrutiny.

He said whoever occupied an elevated position such as that of the EFCC chairman must be above suspicion.

The government official said, “The panel investigating allegations against the acting EFCC chairman had been sitting for some weeks now.

“Under the Muhammadu Buhari administration, nobody is above scrutiny. I repeat nobody. The investigation is to reinforce transparency and accountability, rather than to vitiate them.”

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