Mrs. Owanari Duke, wife of the former Cross River State governor, Donald Duke, is a very successful woman. Before her husband joined politics and became the first executive governor of Cross River State in 1999, the couple had made a success of their endeavour as business figures. Even after leaving office, she has been appointed into the board of many blue chip companies. Thus, they are relatively made. However, it came as a surprise to many last year when Duke was mentioned in a lawsuit over the ownership of a non-governmental organisation, “Run for Cure Africa” dedicated to raising awareness on breast cancer and theft of a sum of $110,267. The former first lady had accused one of her friends and former Vice Principal of the American International School, Lagos, over allegations of stealing the funds from her NGO, the Child Survival and Development Organisation of Nigeria.
After Onari made a statement at the police station, her friend was arrested and dragged before Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Lagos State Offences Court, Ikeja. The accused denied the allegation. While the trial was devoid of any smear campaign, it became a source of concern to many as she appeared bent on jailing the other woman. But after months of looking into the matter, the presiding judge on Monday, acquitted and discharged the accused on three counts of stealing and misappropriation of funds suit filed against her.
It was gathered that the grouse only arose between the two friends following the success of their collaboration and the money realised from the fundraising for their laudable initiative.
Spotlight gathered that sometime in 2009 after establishing an NGO named ‘Run For Cure Africa Breast Cancer Foundation’, the friend had approached Onari Duke, because of her closeness to the family and having taught her daughters at the American School, to use her influence and help her raise the funds to purchase mammogram machines for her foundation. According to the Bayelsa-born teacher, Onari accepted her request and the fund raising was held in the name of her (Onari) NGO between 2009 and 2011, with notable Nigerians, including wives of state governors and several members of diplomatic corps donating to the cause.
Mbanugo, during her testimony, added that after the fund-raising, Onari received a cheque of N7.4 million from the proceeds and three mammogram machines were bought and donated to the Calabar Women and Children’s Hospital, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, and a branch of the Redeemed Christian Church of God on the order of Onari Duke. Mbanugo noted that trouble started between them when Onari made moves of claiming ownership of her intellectual property and this led to the criminal suit brought against her.