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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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We Regret Asking Elon Musk For Ventilators, FG Apologises

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The Federal Government, yesterday, said it regrets asking South African-born US billionaire, Elon Musk, for ventilators to help it fight Coronavirus.
The government has consequently withdrawn the plea made by the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning to help provide treatment for the Coronavirus patients in Nigeria.
Yesterday, Musk, who is the founder and Chief Engineer, SpaceX and Tesla, had, via his official Twitter handle said that his firm had extra ventilators that had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration in America.
He had tweeted, “We have extra FDA-approved ventilators. We will ship to hospitals worldwide within Tesla delivery regions. Only requirement is that the vents are needed immediately for patients and not stored in a warehouse.”
And in response, the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning showed interest, saying, “Dear @Elonmusk @Tesla Federal Government of Nigeria needs support with 100 to 500 ventilators to assist with COVID-19 cases rising every day in Nigeria.”
The response from the government met an immediate backlash from Nigerians on social media.
Following the backlash, the Special Adviser to the Minister on Media and Communications, Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi, issued a disclaimer that the post made on the ministry’s verified Twitter account was unauthorized and regrettable, and therefore, has been brought down.
He tweeted, “An unauthorised post was made on the verified Twitter handle of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
“The fact of the post is regrettable because of which it is brought down. We have made sure our internal processes are strengthened that such doesn’t happen again.
“The error is highly regrettable.”
Earlier, the Federal Government, had last Wednesday, begged for the assistance of Tesla CEO and Tech entrepreneur, Elon Musk, in the fight against Coronavirus, as the number of confirmed cases hit 174.
The tech guru took to his Twitter page, yesterday, disclosing that his company was ready to provide free FDA-approved ventilators to countries in need of immediate ventilators.
Musk, however, said the ventilators would be shipped to countries within its delivery region and those in urgent need but only on one condition.
He said that the ventilators must be needed immediately and not for storing in warehouses for future purposes.
His tweet read: “We have extra FDA-approved ventilators. Will ship to hospitals worldwide within Tesla-delivery regions. Device and shipping costs free.
“Only requirement is that the vents are needed immediately for patients and not stored in a warehouse.”

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Security Agencies Must Respect Human Rights, AI, Senator Warn

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The Nigerian authorities must adopt a rights-respecting approach and give clear instructions to security agencies not to abuse their powers as the nation tightens its effort to tame the COVID-19 pandemic, a global rights organisation, Amnesty International, has warned.
On March 29, President Muhammadu Buhari announced a 14-day lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and in Lagos and Ogun states, to curtail the spread of Coronavirus and placed policemen and the military in the frontline of enforcement of the lockdown directive.
However, many Nigerians have been complaining of lack of respect of their human rights by soldiers and policemen on duty across most states in the country.
While reacting to their complaints, the Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Mrs Osai Ojigho, said, “While acknowledging the size of the challenge and efforts made by authorities to fight COVID-19 across Nigeria, we are also concerned by reports and videos circulating on social media showing violations of human rights, that include beatings by law enforcement agencies tasked with ensuring compliance with the lockdown.
“As the nation observes the 14-day lockdown, the rights of citizens must be respected and protected, including the right to health care, security, and access to sufficient food and water. The lockdown must have a human face; enabling people to have access to vital needs and relief for those who can no longer earn a living since the majority of Nigerians are daily earners and live below poverty line.
“As a matter of urgency, the Nigerian government should implement transparent income support programs targeted at the most vulnerable populations. Millions of Nigerians who live in informal settlements without access to basic services are at higher risk of COVID-19 infection. Government should ensure that the rights to health, food, water and sanitation are realized in such settlements.”
The full statement reads, “The Nigerian authorities must adopt a rights respecting approach and give clear instructions to security agencies not to abuse their powers as the nation tightens its effort to tame the COVID-19 pandemic, which compelled the authorities to impose lockdown and inter-state movement restrictions, Amnesty International said today.
“The national response to COVID-19 must be inclusive, to ensure that prisoners, internally displaced persons and other marginalized and vulnerable communities are not left out at any stages of the fight against the virus.
“While acknowledging the size of the challenge and efforts made by authorities to fight COVID-19 across Nigeria, we are also concerned by reports and videos circulating on social media showing violations of human rights, that include beatings by law enforcement agencies tasked with ensuring compliance with the lockdown,” Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, said.
“As the nation observes the 14-day lockdown, the rights of citizens must be respected and protected, including the right to health care, security, and access to sufficient food and water. The lockdown must have a human face; enabling people to have access to vital needs and relief for those who can no longer earn a living since the majority of Nigerians are daily earners and live below poverty line.
“As a matter of urgency, the Nigerian government should implement transparent income support programs targeted at the most vulnerable populations. Millions of Nigerians who live in informal settlements without access to basic services are at higher risk of COVID-19 infection. Government should ensure that the rights to health, food, water and sanitation are realized in such settlements.

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COVID-19: NCDC Insists On A’Ibom’s Confirmed Cases

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said it has no reason to doubt the validity of the Coronavirus results on Akwa Ibom State.
The NCDC had confirmed five new cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Akwa Ibom on Wednesday.
However, the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Domini Ukpong, contested the claim, insisting that nobody tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the state.
But Director-General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, at the Presidential Task Force briefing on COVID-19 in Abuja, said: “I just read the press release of the Commissioner for Health in Akwa Ibom State, and I think it’s a little bit unfortunate because there was some delay in reporting the results to him because the team that lead the lab where these tests were done, were actually on their way to Abuja to carry out an important national assignment.
“These tests were done in the Irrua specialist Teaching Hospital. This is our oldest and most experienced lab in carrying out PCR diagnosis.
“So, there is really no reason to dispute the validity of these results.
“We must focus on the challenge at our hands; every new case in a new state always leads to a little bit of anxiety and people need time to accept these results and what they are.
“But they are what they are and I have no reason to doubt the results coming out from any of our labs, especially the Irrua specialist Teaching Hospital.
“After every positive case, we will retest anyway, after 3-4 days because the only way you can know whether people are recovering or not is by retesting them. So, that will be done.
He added: “I think now, and like I have seen over and over, this is not the time to dispute and doubt especially within government, but to come together.
“It is not the time to release press statements against other government bodies, but it is a time to come together. So, this is really my appeal to every state. There is no reason why anyone would give results without verifying.
“We are working very hard to make sure that these results are correct; sometimes, we delay in releasing these results, and we get a lot of complains of why the results are taking so long. It is because the tests are being repeated so that we can be very sure.
“But if there is one lab in Nigeria that I can almost be 100 percent sure on the validity of their test, of course they can always be mistake but to have mistaken in 5 results in a lab like Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, will be very unlikely.

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