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N2.5bn Libel Suit: Atiku Files Deposition Against Buhari’s Aide

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Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, yesterday , appeared at the registry of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Maitama, Abuja, to sign and file his deposition in support of the N2.5billion libel suit which he instituted against President Muhammadu Buhari’s Special Assistant on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, earlier in June this year.
Pictures of the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate in the last presidential election with his lead counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), and others in the legal team were sent to journalists yesterday .
In one of the pictures, Atiku was seen seated while holding a pen above a white paper with Ozekhome bent over the table beside him.
In the caption accompanying the pictures, Ozekhome stated, “Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, today, at the Central Registry of the FCT, High Court, Maitama, Abuja, with his client, His Excellency, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Waziri Adamawa.
“The former Vice President was physically at the Registry to sign his witness deposition (on oath) before the Commissioner for Oaths, on the case he instituted against Lauretta Onochie.
“The Waziri is claiming amongst others, the sum of N2.5 bn only, from the Presidential Assistant on Social Media, as general, aggravated, punitive and exemplary damages against her.
“Atiku is claiming this sum from her for her defamatory story published on her twitter handle and Facebook page, in which she stated that Atiku was on the UAE watch list, as a wanted man, asking, ‘shopping for terrorists?’”
Atiku had, on June 26, 2019, instituted the suit against Onochie for her alleged libelous tweet against him via her twitter handle on May 7, 2019.
The tweet allegedly suggested that Atiku was on the watch list of security operatives in the United Arab Emirates and had travelled to shop for terrorists in the Middle East.
He prayed the court in the suit marked CV/2287/19, to order Onochie to pay him the N2.5bn as “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 the claimant.”
Denying the allegations in the said tweet, Atiku said it was “politically orchestrated” “solely to cause maximum damage” to his “high reputation” while challenging “the purported victory” of Onochie’s boss, President Buhari in the last presidential election at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
The presidential candidate of the PDP in the February 23, 2019 poll had, through a May 14, 2019 letter signed by Ozekhome, demanded from Onochie an apology, a retraction of the said post and a payment of N500m compensation to him ”to assuage” the damage allegedly done to him by her social media post.
He also threatened to sue her should she fail to accede to the demand “within 48 hours”.
Justifying his suit, Atiku stated in his statement of claim accompanying his suit, that rather than show “remorse by retracting her earlier publication”, she further, on May 20, made “another derogatory publication and also published same online in the social and other print media” against his person.”

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NDDC’s Contract Verification, Ploy To Subvert Forensic Audit, Group Claims

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The Niger Delta Accountability and Development Coalition (NDADC) has raised the alarm about recent actions undertaken by the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which may undermine the primary presidential mandate for a forensic audit of the operations of the agency.
In a statement jointly signed by its National Coordinator, Johnson Epia, and Secretary, Comrade Ekong Etim, yesterday, the group stated that it was persuaded that “measures announced by the management committee to facilitate the audit are in themselves fraught with fraud and designed to turn the process into a cash cow for the committee members.”
According to the group, the recent inauguration of a 50-man contract verification committee is another example of the cluelessness of the interim management committee, a kind of merry-go-round.
“The committee, which is headed by the Acting Executive Director Projects, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, has directors and staff of the commission as members. While its business is ostensibly to call contractors and verify their projects and claims, we are sufficiently alarmed by recent happenings to believe that the motive behind this committee is anything but objective.
“Our position is informed by the statement of the management committee that the contracts verification committee will screen the contracts across the NDDC member states, and submit a report which the auditors will use as their primary material to audit the commission.”
The coalition recalled the statement credited to Ojougboh and published in newspapers over the weekend that, “It is now common knowledge that some of the awards were not only spurious, but criminal as records available to us show that most of the awards were not backed by budget, has no bills of engineering.”
The coalition then wondered the essence of a verification exercise when the commission already has its own records, which according to Ojougboh indicates that some of the contracts were spurious.
This is especially so when it is considered that the people who make up this committee, aside Ojougboh, are staff of the commission who themselves screened, verified and approved the same contracts that Ojougboh says are fraudulent and which are now being ‘verified’! What rational outcome can we then expect from this exercise? A proper audit exercise should turn out the records of the commission, as they are, to independent external auditors to probe. Anything short of that is a Public Relations stunt, which we do not need, considering the humongous sums that have been poured into the NDDC.
NDADC affirmed that by this and other actions, the interim management committee confirms stakeholders’ fears that it does not have the skill set to supervise the forensic audit ordered by the President, if indeed its actions are not part of a preconceived agenda.
The group re-stated its stand that “What we want is a full audit of the NDDC since 2001 that will not be stage managed by vested interests masquerading as interventionists”, explaining that this is why the coalition and other civil society groups in the region have always insisted that the Federal Government has no business appointing an interim management committee to supervise the audit, a process any duly constituted board can handle.

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One Killed As Police Disperse Shi’ites’ Protest In Abuja

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An unidentified person was killed, yesterday, when the police allegedly fired gunshots and tear gas canisters to disperse a protest by members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) at the Berger area of Wuse, Abuja.
According to eyewitnesses, the victim, who was a passerby, was allegedly hit by a bullet.
The tragedy caused a scare as nervous commuters ran away in fear.
The Shi’ites procession which started at Utako area of the city ended abruptly after the incident.
The remains of the victim were subsequently taken away by the police in one of their vans.
It would be recalled that three IMN members were injured last week when the police fired gunshots and tear gas canisters to disperse the Shi’ite members who were demanding the release of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat, who are in prison custody in Kaduna.
The spokesman for the Federal Capital Territory police command, DCP Anjuguri Manzah, in a statement confirmed that the protest recorded one casualty.
It explained that the command restored calm at Berger roundabout after a violent protest by IMN members “who went berserk and were attacking innocent citizens and police operatives with dangerous weapons”.
The statement read, “As a result of the unfortunate incident, one person who sustained an injury and was rushed to the hospital for medical attention has been certified dead by medical doctors on duty.
“Meanwhile, the FCT Commissioner of Police FCT, Bala Ciroma, has ordered a full-scale investigation into the unfortunate incident.”

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Global Amnesty, ICC Disagree Over War, Human Rights Crimes In Nigeria

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Contrary to preliminary examination activities by the International Criminal Court (ICC) that its prosecutor could press three cases against the Nigerian government, the Global Amnesty Watch (GWA) has commended the Federal Government for its effort in tackling threats to humanity.
The international humanitarian organisation made this known, yesterday, in a detailed report opposing ICC’s recent report with a view to putting issues in proper perspective.
Among others, the international tribunal listed Nigeria as one of the countries being probed for alleged war and international human rights crimes.
On the opposite, however, Global Amnesty Watch believes the Nigerian authorities have done sufficiently well in its prosecution of the war against terrorism in Nigeria.
In the report signed by the Africa representative, John Tom Lever, GAW acknowledged some challenges were faced along the way but explained that prompt and countermeasures were put in place.
The Global Amnesty Watch added that the issues identified by the ICC are those already addressed by a presidential panel of inquiry and found the military innocent.
After thoroughly examining the facts, the group concluded that indeed, the Nigerian military lived up to expectation and the position of the ICC is “misleading and not a reflection of the reality on the ground”.
In the interest of fairness to all, Global Amnesty Watch, therefore, called on the ICC to investigate Boko Haram, Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) and others over war crimes.
The International Criminal Court, in its 2019 edition of the annual report on preliminary examination activities, identified three cases that could be pressed against Nigerian authorities as issued by the office of its prosecutor headed by Mrs. Fatou Bensouda.
The report, amongst a host of others, listed Nigeria as one of the countries being probed for alleged war and international human rights crimes.
The possible crimes against the Nigerian Security and Civilian Joint Task Force include killings, torture or ill-treatment of military-aged males suspected to be Boko Haram members or supporters in the North-East.
The report also identified attacks against civilian populations and recruitment and use of children under 15 to participate in hostilities.
“The Position of the Global Amnesty Watch: The Global Amnesty Watch as an international humanitarian organization with a mandate of serving as that watchdog on human rights compliance by governments and organizations around the world decries the methodology employed by the ICC in arriving at most of the findings in its report, especially that aspects that relates to the Nigerian military and its prosecution of the war against terrorism in North-East Nigeria.
“The position of the ICC is at best misleading and not a reflection of the reality on the ground because of its failure to recognize appropriate mechanisms put in place by the Nigerian authorities to ensure that cases of excessive use of forces, human rights violations and other sundry issues by Nigerian military personnel are addressed.
“Special Board of Inquiry: The ICC may wish to recall that the Nigerian Army had indeed constituted a Special Board of Inquiry headed by Major General A.T. Jibrin (rtd), which investigated the cases of misdemeanour by officers and men of the Nigerian Army in the fight against terrorism in North-East Nigeria and other security operations in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria.
“The Global Amnesty Watch as a stakeholder is privy to the content of the report and in times past called for it to be given wide publication in an attempt to put to rest the controversies that had raged around the efforts of the Nigerian military to secure the country and keep its citizens safe from terrorist and other militant groups in the country.
“Presidential Investigative Panel: In the aftermath of public outcry in human rights violations against the Nigerian military in respect to the IMN and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a presidential investigative panel was instituted by the Nigerian government and headed by Justice Georgewill Biobele to review extant rules of engagement applicable in the Armed Forces and the extent of compliance with them.

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