Olusola Fabiyi, Chukwudi Akasike, Eniola Akinkuotu and Ade Adesomoju
Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, has written to a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, and an aide to Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, Mr. Lere Olayinka, citing character defamation over the allegation that he (the minister) owns the $43m (about N13bn) seized by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission in Ikoyi, Lagos.
Amaechi, in letters dated April 14, 2017, written on his behalf by his lawyer, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), to the two men, said his client had been defamed by the claims of the two men.
Fagbemi is demanding N500m from Fani-Kayode as compensation for the alleged malicious posts by the former minister on his twitter handle on April 14.
He is also demanding two separate sums of N750m totalling N1.5bn from Olayinka as compensation for the alleged “malicious” posts by the Ekiti State Governor’s spokesperson on his facebook timeline and twitter handle on April 14.
In his letter to Fani-Kayode, Fagbemi said it was wrong for the former minister to assume that Amaechi owned the flat and the money found in it.
Fagbemi said as a lawyer, Fani-Kayode knew that he ought to approach the Land Registry, especially in Lagos State, where he said there were proper records of property owners, in order to verify the ownership of the property in question.
He said the former deliberately refused to carry out a diligent search in order to achieve a malicious aim.
Fagbemi said Fani-Kayode had claimed through his twitter handle that “The $43m is Rotimi Amaechi’s. He owns the flat (where) it was found in too (sic.). NIA story is fake news. NIA does not keep cash in minister’s flats.”
He said the story was a lie and that it was aimed at impeaching the integrity of his client, who he described as a two-term speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly and a two-term governor of the same state.
Fagbemi said Amaechi neither owned the flat where the money was found nor owned the cash as well.
The letter reads in part, “Our client neither owns the cash nor the house where the cash was found and your story and claim are unfounded. As a matter of fact, our client does not own any house in Lagos State not to talk of keeping cash in one and your story is preposterous.
“Your twitter rant of 14/04/2014 at 04.16 was viewed by your 316. 000 followers, re-tweeted 1,209 times and made a favourite by 434 followers as of the time of writing this letter today at 7.15pm and the list is increasing by the minute and same has satisfied all the conditions needed for a successful defamation case against you.
“We have our client’s mandate to state to you unequivocally that the said twitter publication constitutes libel, and is defamatory of him as same (the claim) is aimed at impugning our client’s character and credit in the eyes of right thinking Nigerians and foreigners.”
In view of this, he gave Fani-Kayode a seven-day ultimatum to tender apology to the minister and that such apology be carried by five national dailies.
Fagbemi added that Fani-Kayode should pay his client N500m damages as “compensation for the malicious and defamatory claim.”
He threatened to sue the minister if the demands were not met within seven days.
The lawyer in two separate letters, each relating separately to facebook and twitter posts by Olayinka, demanded the sums of N750m as compensation for each of the posts.
Fagbemi quoted Olayinka as stating in the posts, “The Osborne Towers, a luxury residential complex in lkoyi, Lagos where EFCC said it found $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 on Wednesday is owned by the Minister of Transportation. Rotimi Amaechi.
“The house was built by Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, the former Chairman of PDP through a loan from GTBank.
“He could not repay the loan so GTB took over the house and allocated the Pent House to Mu’azu and two flats
“Rotimi Amaechi bought TWO of the flats (7A and 7B). He then gave 7A to Mo Abudu, the TV presenter, who is suspected to be his girlfriend.
But the flat 7B, where the money was found, belong (sic) to Rotimi Amaechi.
“This is believed to be cash kept for 2019 elections.
“Let’s see how the cover up game goes.”
He also accused Olayinka of falsely making adulterous imputation against his client, who he stated “contracted a valid statutory marriage within the Marriage Act, which prescribes a ‘one-man one-wife’ union.”
The letter relating to the twitter post read in part, “Your twitter post of 14/04/2014 as at 07pm today was viewed by not less than 12,000 followers, retweeted 38 times and made a favourite by nine followers as of the time of writing this letter.
“Please note that the list is increasing by the minute and same has satisfied all the conditions needed for a successful defamation case against you. May we state at this juncture that our client contracted a valid statutory marriage within the Marriage Act, which prescribes a ‘one man-one wife’ union.
“Your baseless assertion that our client bought a flat for one Mo Abudu, whom you also claim to be his girlfriend, raises the assertion that our client is adulterous and is unfaithful to his marital vows.
“We have our client’s mandate to state to you unequivocally that the said twitter publication constitutes libel, and is defamatory of him as same (the claim) is aimed at impugning our client‘s character and credit in the eyes of right thinking Nigerians and foreigners.
“In the light of the foregoing, and in the spirit of a second chance, we have our client’s instructions to give you an ultimatum of seven days from the receipt of this letter to issue an apology in five national dailies and on your twitter handle.
“Your apology, which should be heartfelt, must be a total withdrawal of your claim and its imputations must also contain an expression of deep regret for this unwarranted attack and must also contain a complete retraction of the false statement of yours.
“We also demand from you a sum of N750,000,000.00 (Seven hundred and Fifty Million Naira) as compensation for the malicious and defamatory claim.
“Please note that the demand will increase with time if you fail to retract the statement and publication immediately.
“Failure to do any of these would be met with stiff legal actions which your defamatory act deserves. A stitch in time saves nine!”
He reproduced the same content, making similar demands of apology and N750m compensation in the second letter in which he stated that Olayinka’s “Facebook post of April 13, 2017 was viewed by your over 5,000 friends with 47 friends liking it, 84 people commenting on it and 43 people sharing it as at the time of writing this letter.”
In his response, however, Fani-Kayode said he had not received any court letters from Amaechi.
In a statement by his media aide, Jude Ndukwe, the ex-minister said, “We have been inundated with calls concerning a threat by Rotimi Amaechi to sue Chief Fani-Kayode for defamation over the $43m issue.
“We are not losing any sleep over this matter. We have not received any court processes or letters from Amaechi but when we do so, our lawyers will respond vigorously and appropriately.”