By Mojola Aturamu
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, is demanding N500m in damages from former Minister of Aviation Femi Fani-Kayode over “malicious and defamatory claims” concerning the huge sums of money found in an apartment in the Ikoyi area of Lagos state by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Fani-Kayode, had tweeted following the recovery of the money from Ikoyi that:
“The $43m is Rotimi Amaechi’s. He owns the flat (where) it was found in too. NIA story is fake news. NIA does not keep cash in minister’s flats.”
According to PUNCH, Amaechi, in a letter by his lawyer Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) dated April 14, 2017, gave Fani-Kayode a seven-day ultimatum to tender apology to the minister and that such apology be carried by five national dailies.
“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,” the letter read in part.”
Fani-Kayode, in a statement by his media aide, Jude Ndukwe, responded to the report saying:
”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.
Fabgemi, in two separate letters, also demanded an apology and N750m damages each from Governor Ayo Fayose‘s Media aide, Lere Olayinka over his series of tweets and Facebook post.
“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 Penthouse 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,” Lere had said.
Fagbemi’s letter read:
”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 (his) 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.”
Responding to the report, Olayinka told Vanguard: “I am not aware of any letter, I am not aware of any suit.”
There have been reports that the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA) has claimed ownership of the money, and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike has also said that the money belongs to the state, adding that it was part of the proceeds from the sale of gas turbines during Amaechi’s tenure as governor.
Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said that it is not sure the money came from it. This is coming after several reports stated that the Nigerian Intelligence Agency told President Muhammadu Buhari that the money was released to it for covert operations during the tenure of former president Goodluck Jonathan.
CBN spokesperson, Isaac Okorafor when contacted by Premium Times to clarify its role in the disbursement of the funds, said:
”It is true the Central Bank of Nigeria issues mint fresh notes, but it is only to banks.
After that (issuance to banks) CBN does not know which of their customers they (the banks) give those notes to and for what purpose.
I cannot say if the notes the NIA is claiming came from the CBN. So, I will not be able to answer questions on it for now, except I receive a specific request.”