Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Senator representing Delta North senatorial district in the Senate, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, has slammed a N1 billion libel suit against the Senior Special Assistant to the President Muhammadu Buhari on New Media, Mrs Lauretta Onochie.
Before the filling of the suit through his counsel, Daniel Bwala, Senator Nwaoboshi gave Onochie a 48-hour ultimatum to retract all disparaging comments allegedly made against him in regards to contracts from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) or face imminent litigation.
Nwaoboshi, who is the Chairman, Senate House Committee on Niger Delta, claims that Onochie defamed his reputation with a post on her Facebook where she called him a thief as well as an embezzler of funds by collecting contracts from the NDDC without executing them.
The alleged defamatory statements complained against were made on June 8 through an article she posted/published on her Facebook page (Lauretta Onochie) the Senator captioned “NDDC- THE CHICKEN COMES HOME TO ROOST”.
The offensive statements, according to the claimant, are chronicled as follows:
‘I was at an event in his home town when he spoke in our Anioma language, declaring himself a thief. I am an Ada Anioma. I was raised in Anioma land. We do not take what belongs to others, let alone pride ourselves in being thieves.
‘The question Senator Nwaoboshi has refused to answer is to tell Niger Delta citizens and Nigerians his role in the award of contracts for the provision of 4,800 plastic desks and chairs for primary/secondary schools in nine (9) states of the Niger Delta in 2016 with an award of contract letters dated 22nd September 2016.
‘The contract sum was for N3.6 Billion Naira. The revelations in the award of the said contract are mind-boggling, disturbing and appalling, using eleven different companies and business names which were awarded the contract are owned by or traceable to one and the same person being Sen. Peter Nwaoboshi.
‘The said companies/business names are: Noan Integrated Services; De Towers Constructions & Allied Services Ltd; Franstine Nigeria Enterprises; Edrihide Company; Isumabe U.K. Global; Benchmark Construction at Allied Services
‘Millstone Allied Builders Ltd.; Nelpat Nigeria Company; Agh-Rown Ventures; Edendoma Star International; and Antlers Construction and Allied Works Ltd.
‘The inventory records show that these items were supplied and received on Senator Nwaoboshi’s business premises and warehouse, not to the beneficiaries. Meanwhile, the contracts were awarded to him.
‘However, some of the items supplied to Nwaoboshi’s warehouse through his cronies, were later resold to the Delta state government, while the others were sold to other states through contracts awarded to him.
‘All supply agreements were signed by one and the same person being Mr Agbamuche Nelson, traceable to Senator Nwaoboshi. This is in flagrant contravention of section 58(4) (a) and (d) of the Public Procurement Act.
‘No wonder Senator Nwaoboshi and his cohorts are jittery about the ongoing Forensic Audit exercise in the NDDC and are doing everything possible to derail it.’
But in his suit before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the claimant is urging the court to declare that ‘the defendant’s post/publication of June 8, 2020, posted/published on her Facebook page Lauretta Onochie captioned: “NDDC: The Chicken Comes Home To Roost”, amounts to libel.
‘An order of this Honourable Court awarding the sum of N1,000,000,000.00 (One Billion Naira) only, to the claimant as general damages against the defendant.
‘An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant, her agents, servants, privies and any other person howsoever described, acting for and on her behalf, from further publishing/posting any other false and damaging publication in respect of the claimant.
‘Nwaoboshi believes that this publication/post about him is meant to be understood and was understood by reasonable and right-thinking members of the public that he is: a thief as you called him in your Facebook post, Corrupt and a criminal; Abusing his office and not fit to represent the good people of Delta North senatorial district, Committing atrocities as Chairman Senate Committee on Niger Delta and not a man of integrity.
‘That this publication was made/posted by you mischievously and maliciously. To say the least, the said libellous post is calculated to undermine him knowing that the Senate is carrying out a probe of the NDDC.
‘That it is our client’s belief that for you to call him a thief without being convicted by a court of law has not only maligned his image but also has ridiculed his integrity.
‘That it is only a competent court of law that can pronounce someone a thief when the person is found guilty of a crime.
‘That there is no doubt that your Facebook posts/publications enjoy wide readership throughout Nigeria and globally as Special Assistant to Nigeria’s President on social media.
‘To have maligned disparaged and tarnished his reputation. integrity and image both in his official and personal capacity is not only condemnable but punishable.’