By Kayode Matthew
A widow, Princess Abiodun Folashade Omotade, who lost her husband in the ill-fated Bellview Air Crash of October 23 2005 has instituted an action at an Ikeja High Court against a businessman, Alhaji Safiriyu Kazeem, claiming N5billion as damages for a libelous publication in national daily on August 2 2010.
The offensive publication, according to her, was the petition which Alhaji Kazeem wrote to the Inspector General of Police describing Princess Folashade as an evil tornado who was responsible for his (Alhaji Kazeem) incarceration by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Nigeria Police Force. Alhaji Kazeem also said in the publication that Princess Omotade and himself were lovers and lived together as husband and wife under Yoruba custom and tradition until things turned awry sometimes last year and that she allegedly used security agencies to harass and humiliate him despite paying her N301 million from the debt owed her
In her statement of claim however, Princess Omotade said that the publications were false, libelous and defamatory of her and were designed to smear her good image and name.
She said in her witness statement tha:I know that the aforesaid publications are false in all material particulars, libelous and defamatory of me. I state that the Statements contained above in the Punch Newspapers publications by the Defendants are defamatory of me in their natural and ordinary meaning. In the alternative, I know that the words complained of are meant and were understood by the readers to mean: I am a wicked and mean person. I am out to destroy the 1st defendant without just cause. I have since secretly remarried following the death of my husband without letting either my children or my late husband’s family know of the marriage. As a consequence of this, the Defendants are saying that I am dishonest and unreliable.
That I am corrupt and pervert the course of justice. That the security agencies are at my beck and call and that I use them to oppress my perceived enemies. That I am hypocritical that I still parade myself as the widow of Late Deji Omotade while I have gone ahead to marry another man. That I am a greedy woman who likes to reap where I did not sow. That by making yearly publications in remembrance of my late husband in Punch and other Newspapers, I am merely pretending since
I have gone ahead to marry another man.
By the aforesaid publication, the Defendants have imputed to me an inclination and propensity for violent, undemocratic and wicked activities which is defamatory and libelous. Upon reading the news publication, I was horribly shocked, distressed psychologically, disturbed and highly embarrassed.
The publication led to several letters and telephone calls from business associates, members of my late husband’s family, my immediate family, friends, state men and women from home and abroad. I state that the publications are prejudicial to my career as a business woman as no one will be willing to have business dealing with an oppressive, dishonest, violent and unreliable woman and it also affects my testimony as a mother.
The Publication has greatly affected my relationship with my in-laws who have hitherto believed that I would not take any steps in marriage without carrying them along. The defendants have means and opportunities of verifying the truth or otherwise of the offensive publication but failed it do so and have been motivated in making the offensive publication by the desire to bring me into contempt, odium and ridicule in the eyes of an average Nigerian. Particularly, the 2nd defendant should have refused this offensive publication because it has been collecting money from me to do a paid advertisement in remembrance of my late husband since his unfortunate death about five years ago. In fact, I paid the 2nd defendant about N500, 000 for a full page advertisement in remembrance of my late husband last year like I did in the previous years. I also make similar advertisements in other newspapers to the extent that I have been spending about N2,500,000 yearly on remembrance advertisements since my husband died. In consequence of this publication, my reputation has been seriously damaged and I have suffered considerable distress and embarrassment.
By reason of the said publication, I have also been brought into public scandal, odium and contempt. The defendants issued the aforesaid publications to smear my good image and name. The aforesaid publication is false in all material particulars, libelous and defamatory of me and I will give the surrounding facts and circumstances of the case as follows: I am a widow and a business woman who devote her earnings towards her welfare and that of her children and family. I met the 1st defendant in February, 2007 through one Alhaja Kuburat Atinuke Eketunde who came to live in my house in Abuja at the material time. I later became close friends to the 1st defendant. I have not at any time and for any reason and in any place married the 1st defendant either traditionally or culturally or any other ways and fashion howsoever. I challenge the 1st Defendant to produce evidence of any marriage with him anywhere and at anytime. I have also not lived with the 1st Defendant as a wife or lover as claimed or at all. Sometime in August 2008, the 1st defendant, who is the Chairman, Managing Director and the directing mind and will of the SAF Petroleum Limited sought to borrow N220million from me for a period of one year under the pretence that he would use the money to further his petroleum distribution business.
After much pressures on me, I agreed to and indeed borrowed the 1st defendant the sum of N220m through my Company R.F.O. Ventures Limited for a tenor of one year commencing from September 8, 2008 and ending September 5, 2009.
By the said offensive publications, I have had my integrity and reputation seriously prejudiced and have been obnoxiously injured in credit and reputation and brought into public scandal, odium, and contempt. I state that the defendants are still threatening and intend to continue the publication of the same or similar charges against me.
I therefore seek the following orders from this honorable court against the defendants jointly and severally as follows: An order directing the Defendants to pay the Claimant the sum of N5billion as damages for libel published on and concerning the Claimant, contained in the Newspapers of Monday August 2, vol. 17 NO 20, 665 page 39.
An order directing :the defendants to forthwith withdraw the said libelous publications contained in the said newspapers of Monday August 2, vol. 17 NO 20, 665 page 39.
An order directing the defendants to forthwith tender an unreserved apology to the Claimant published in not less than three national newspapers.
An order of injunction restraining the defendants either by themselves, their officers, servants, agents, privies or otherwise however called from publishing or further publishing these or similar or defamatory statement with regard to the Claimant.