…Gives Lauretta Onochie 48 hours to retract her statements or they meet in court
…As Senate charges security agencies to swing into action over fake letter to EFCC
By Henry Umoru
THE locale of the raging war between some members of the Senate and the Interim Management Committee, IMC of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC over the probe of alleged financial impropriety is now shifting to the court.
At the moment, the gladiators in the quagmire have now threatened to go to court on alleged defamation of character.
One of the key dramatist personae in the unending fight and Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Delta North has threatened to drag the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mrs Lauretta Onochie to court over alleged defamation of character on the social media while siding the IMC on its refusal to appear before the Ad-hoc Committee of the Senate, mandated to probe N40billion allegedly squandered by the Commission between January and March this year.
In a letter of litigation written to Mrs Onochie on Tuesday in Abuja by solicitors of Nwaoboshi, she was given 48 hours to retract all her alleged disparaging comments against Nwaoboshi as regards contracts from NDDC or face litigation immediately.
The solicitors are Bwala&Co of the Crystal Chambers and Daniel Hassan Bwala of Lincoln’s Inn London.
Meanwhile, the Senate called on security agencies to unravel the alleged forgery of a letter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the instance of the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege for purported probe of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio.
The letter read, “Consequent upon your unsubstantiated allegations against , our client, he demands that you publish/post a retraction on all your social media platforms and tender an unreserved apology to him within forty eight hours from the day of delivery of this letter.
“TAKE NOTE that if you fail to comply with the demands as stated above, we have our client’s instructions to take legal action against you without further recourse to you. A stitch in time saves nine.”
The solicitors who are Bwala&Co of the Crystal Chambers and Daniel Hassan Bwala of Lincoln’s Inn London in the letter dated 9th June, 2020 and addressed to Mrs. Lauretta Onochie, Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Media, State House. Abuja, chronicled all her alleged disparaging comments against Nwaoboshi and demanded for retraction and apology within 48 hours.
The letter titled: Defamatory Publication by you against the Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, reads in part: ” We are Solicitors to Sen. Peter Nwaoboshi, Chairman Senate Committee on NDDC hereinafter called “Our Client”, on whose instructions we write you on the relative above.
Our Client informed us and we verily believe him that; On the 8th day of June 2020, you posted/published a defamatory article on your Facebook page (Lauretta Onochie) against our client captioned “NDDC- THE CHICKEN COMES HOME TO ROOST” appearing on your page as follows, amongst other;
“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 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 contacts 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.
“That our client believes that this publication by you against him is meant to ridicule his image all because you occupy an important position in the government of President Buhari in relation to social media. so that whatever you posted or shared should be taken as the position of the President and therefore your post/publications would be believed by others.
“That our client 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 clients 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 enjoys 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”.
Meanwhile the leadership of the Senate yesterday asked some security agencies to wade in and expose those who forged the letter head of its Clerk to do a purported letter allegedly written by Deputy President of the Senate , Ovie Omo-Agege to the EFCC against the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio.
It was authoritatively gathered that the Senate Clerk had told the Senate leadership that his letter head was forged by unknown persons to do the letter to the EFCC.
Relying on this information, the Senate leadership was said to have instructed some security agencies including the EFCC to investigate the actual source of the letter.
Omo-Agege in denying his authorisation for the letter had made it clear that a letter said to have emanated from the Clerk of the Senate, acting on his behalf and requesting the Chairman of the anti-graft agency, Mr Ibrahim Magu to investigate the Minister, was fake.
Omo-Agege’s statement, which was released to journalists on Sunday, reads: “The attention of the Office of the Deputy President of the Senate has been drawn to a letter dated 7th May, 2020, purportedly written by the Clerk of the Senate acting on behalf of the Office of Deputy President of the Senate requesting the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate and monitor the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and one other.
“This Office hereby states that the said letter is false, fake, malicious, mischievous and vexatious.
“This Office never instructed the Clerk of the Senate, or in fact any person, to write to or contacts the EFCC in relation to any person.
“In the light of the foregoing, we wish to urge the public to disregard the fake letter, same being the handiwork of a person or persons with criminal intents”.