Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo SAN has demanded a daily newspaper, The Sun Newspaper to retract a false story it published, calling on his probe over an accusation that he(Osinbajo) and the Accountant General of the Federation(AGF) withdrew N10 billion from the Treasury Single Account (TSA) of the Federal government.
On August 9, 2020, The Sun published as story titled: “Ex APC Spokesman asks Buhari to probe Osinbajo, AuGF over alleged N10bn withdrawal from TSA.” The story emanated from a former Deputy National Secretary the ruling party, All Progressives Congress(APC), Mr Timi Frank, who alleged that the duo of Osinbajo and the AuGF withdrew the sum of N10 billion from the TSA.
In a pre-action notice letter wtitten by Osinbajo’s lawyer, Mr Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa SAN, the vice president gave The Sun Newspapers a seven day ultimatum to retract the news story and tender apology, or face court action.
The letter with Ref: A&C/RC/L-15/08/2020, and dated Wednesday, August 12, 2020 was addressed to the Publisher of the newspaper.
PRE-ACTION NOTICE – DEFAMATION OF HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON IN YOUR PUBLICATION OF AUGUST 9, 2020
We are solicitors to His Excellency, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN (‘our Client’), on whose instruction we write, in respect of the above subject matter. Our Client has informed us that on or about August 9, 2020, you caused to be published in your newspaper (The Sun) an article titled: “Ex APC Spokesman asks Buhari to probe Osinbajo, AuGF over alleged N10bn withdrawal from TSA.”
2. In the said article, which was published to national and global audience both in print and on your online medium, you made and/or repeated several defamatory statements of and concerning our Client, including the following –
(i)“Former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Timi Frank, on Sunday, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently constitute a panel of inquiry to investigate the illegal withdrawal of N10 billion from the Treasury Single Account (TSA).”
(ii)“Frank in a statement in Abuja, said such a panel must of necessity be given a clear mandate to unravel the involvement of the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and the Auditor General of the Federation (AuGF), Anthony Ayine, in the brazen illegality.”
3. By publishing these statements online within an hour of the purported Timi Frank interview, and obviously without making any attempt to check or verify their authenticity of these unsubstantiated allegations. The above words, in their natural and ordinary meanings, meant and were understood to mean that:
(i)The sum of N10 billion naira had been illegally withdrawn from TSA of the Nigerian Government.
(ii)Our Client was involved in this “brazen illegality” and steps must be taken to unravel his involvement.
4. As you are well aware, our client is a public officer entrusted by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the high office of Vice President, a role that requires explicit and implicit trust from his colleagues in public service and from members of the general public. The ill-considered publication of the above stated libellous statements without due care to investigate or verify the truth, is mischievously calculated to erode that trust. This is more so as the bank statement attached to the Jackson Ude Tweets, from which the story was concocted, clearly indicates a transfer by the duly authorised Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) into Federal Government’s own Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF), rather than a withdrawal as alleged.
5. For more than four decades, our Client has built his reputation as a distinguished scholar, legal practitioner and clergyman. In recognition of his distinction in legal practice, our client was elevated to the highly coveted rank of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 2002. Prior to becoming the Vice President in 2015, he had meritoriously served as a distinguished Attorney General of Lagos State for eight years. In his decades of private and public service, his integrity and incorruptibility has never been found wanting.
6. Contrary to your assertions in paragraphs 2 and 3 above, our Client affirms that –
(i)There was never at any time, any illegal withdrawal of N10 billion naira, or any amount at all, from the TSA in which he (our Client) was involved.
(ii)He is not corrupt and he does not engage in illegal conduct.
7. Furthermore, the above words and their apparent or intended meanings are false, malicious and defamatory of our client in all material particulars and they constitute and were published mainly to ridicule our Client. By the publication of the words complained of, our Client has been greatly injured and maligned in his status, reputation, office, integrity, calling, profession, career, calling and business and he has been brought into irreparable scandal, odium, ridicule and public contempt. The said malicious and libelous publication was deliberately published and circulated by your company with the full knowledge and/or awareness of its consequences and implications on the feeling, integrity, character, office, business, status and reputation of our Client.
8. Since your publication aforesaid, our Client has been inundated with several telephone calls, visits and enquiries from his friends, family members, colleagues, supporters and sympathizers, home and abroad. The said publication was published, sold (for N300.00) in the open market and on the streets throughout Nigeria and beyond, and it was similarly published on your website:http//www.sunonline.com.
9. This publication falsely portrays our Client as a very corrupt public officer who regularly, furtively and illegally steals billions of naira from the public treasury. By so doing, it has wrongly exposed our client to utter contempt and ridicule in the estimation of right-thinking members of the society. Your unfounded and malicious publication also violates sections 391 to 395 of the Penal Code Act as well as section 24 of the Cybercrimes Act.
10. Accordingly, we have our Client’s instructions to demand the following from you:
(i)An IMMEDIATE RETRACTION of the libelous publication and an express and unambiguous APOLOGY, to be published in your newspaper and on your website, with the same or greater prominence, circulation and distribution, and also to be published in at least three national newspapers, preferably but not limited to The Punch, Thisday and Daily Trust.
(ii)A WRITTEN UNDERTAKING, not to publish any similar or further libel of and concerning our Client.
TAKE NOTICE that if after seven (7) days of your receipt of this letter, you fail, refuse and/or neglect to comply with the above demands, we shall proceed to execute our Client’s further instructions to institute an action in court against your company.
While thanking you for your kind consideration to act promptly, please accept the best assurances of our esteemed regards, always.
EBUN-OLU ADEGBORUWA, SAN