By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
The forrmer Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar Tuesday made true his threat to institute a N2.5 billion libel against a Presidential aide, Mrs Lauretta Onochie over an alleged libelous publication.
He was at the Registry of the Federal Capital Territory Judiciary (FCT) where he formally deposed to his own witness statement on Oath before the Commissioner for Oaths to kick-start the libel suit against the Presidential aide.
Atiku, who was candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23, 2019 presidential election, had in May this year threatened legal action against Onochie, who is the Special Assistant to the President on Social Media,
The legal action was in connection with a publication wherein Onochie on her Twitter handle alleged that Atiku is on the watchlist of security operatives in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for alleged criminal matters.
Onochie in the said publication of May 7, 2019, which was also published by many newspapers and online media platforms, also accused Atiku of shopping for terrorists in the Middle East.
Atiku had, while challenging the victory of President Buhari in the February 23 presidential poll at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal and the Supreme Court, remained in the United Arab Emirates, until last week when he returned to the country.
In a letter dated May 14, 2019 and written on his behalf by his lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN, the former Vice President described Onochie’s statement as not only vile and denigrating but a calculated attempt to disparage his person in the eyes of right thinking members of the public.
On May 7, 2019 on her Twitter handle alleged that, “Atiku on UAE watchlist – security sources. Security operatives in the United Arab Emirates are keeping a close tab on a former Nigerian Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who has been in Middle East nation for several weeks now. What is he doing there? Me: shopping for terrorists?
But in his reaction, the PDP presidential candidate insisted that there is no iota of truth in the said publication which is beginning to affect public perception of his person, adding that the publication has caused him national and international backlash and embarrassment as well as incalculable damage.
“To say that 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”, Ozekhome said.
He subsequently demanded Buhari’s Special Assistant to publish and tender a written retraction of the said statement and apologise over the said libelous publication in six national newspapers, one international newspaper and all social media platforms wherein the said publication was made.
In addition, Atiku demanded that Onochie pay the sum of N500 million as minimal damages to assuage Atiku’s already battered image wholly caused by her said defamatory publication.
Ozekhome stated that failure to do so within 48 hours of receipt of Atiku’s letter would compel them to “activate the full weight of the legal machinery against (her), where the sum of N2 billion would be demanded as compensation for exemplary, aggravated and punitive damages”.
Atiku’s presence in court Tuesday to sign his witness statement is an indication that he is set to commence legal action against the Presidential aide.