An Abuja-based media consultant and former newspaper editor, Mr. Simon Imobo-Tswam, has dragged the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, before a Federal Capital Territory High Court, claiming N1 Billion as “general and compensatory damages,” for libel, mischief and the unauthorized use of his name, phone number and platform for image-laundering.
In the suit No: No. CV/1679/15, the Plaintiff alleged that the minister and her secret media agents use of his name, his phone number and the letter-head of his platform, Network of Progressive Activists (NPA), to engage in a media attack against ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo as well as defend the minister’s alleged expenditure of public funds to the tune of N10 Billion on chartered jets.
Joined in the suit, which is before Court 26, presided over by Justice M.M. Kolo are: Messrs. Michael Mukwuzi (2nd Defendant); Timothy Ademola (3rd Defendant); THISDAY Newspapers (4th Defendant); Tokumbo Adedoja (5th Defendant); Vanguard Newspapers (6th Defendant); Chioma Gabriel (7th Defendant) and Anozie Egole (8th Defendant).
While the 1st Defendant (Mukwuzi) is a staff of the NNPC in the Media Relations Department, the 3rd Defendant (Timothy Ademola), is the Executive Assistant to the Special Assistant to the President on Youth and Student Matters, as well as the National Coordinator of NPA.
In the Writ of Summons filed by counsel to the plaintiff, Chris Alashi Esq. of Fair-Fields Solicitors and Advocates, besides the N1billion claim for “general and compensatory damages,” the Plaintiff is also praying the court for “interest on damages awarded at the rate of 18 per cent per annum on the judgment sum awarded from the date of judgment until the judgment sum is finally liquidated.”
The plaintiff is also asking the court for an order, compelling the Defendants to tender to him “an unreserved and unambiguous apology,” to be published in the Vanguard and THISDAY newspapers over the publications the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Defendants “maliciously, malevolently, mischievously and wickedly ascribed/attributed to the Plaintiff which embarrassed, injured and devastatingly damaged the Plaintiff, and cast him in bad light before well-meaning members of the public and most particularly patriotic Nigerians.”
According to the particulars of the Suit, No. CV/1679/15 and filed on 27th April, 2015, after ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo published his letter to Goodluck Jonathan last in December 2013, entitled: “Before It Is Too Late”, Michael Mukwuzi (2nd Defendant), a staff of the NNPC, but acting as the secret/private agent of the minister, approached the Plaintiff to appear on AIT to castigate the ex-President and follow the AIT appearance with a pre-written response (Press release) in the plaintiff’s name/platform, which would be released to newspapers.
The Plaintiff said that although he refused these, “despite the attractive financial inducement offered, the 2nd Defendant (Mukwuzi), acting as the secret agent of the 1st Defendant (Diezani Alison-Madueke), authored/wrote the said Press Release, and, in conjunction with the 3rd Defendant (Timothy Ademola), caused same to be published by the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Defendants as well as so many other media outfits deliberately purporting that the Plaintiff issued the Press Release in conjunction the 3rd Defendant; whereas the Plaintiff never subscribed to, signed nor issued the said release.”
The press release, entitled: “Our opinion on the Venomous Open Letter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Goodluck Jonathan and President Jonathan’s Necessary Reply
The Plaintiff is averring further that following public outcry of corruption, profligacy and financial recklessness against the 1st Defendant (Diezani Alison-Madueke) over her expenditure of over N10 Billion of public funds on her chartered jets, her agent (2nd Defendant) once again contacted the Plaintiff to use his name and platform (Network of Progressive Activists: NPA) to defend the minister on Channels and AIT as well as write articles in the newspapers in defence of her actions.
According to the writ, “The Plaintiff told the 2nd Defendant point-blank in the presence of the 3rd Defendant that neither himself nor the NPA, the platform over which he superintends as National Secretary, would defend such brazen acts of corruption, fraud, profligacy, financial recklessness and economic sabotage allegedly perpetrated by the 1st Defendant.
“The 3rd Defendant persuaded the Plaintiff to accept the proposal in view of the financial offer/inducement made the 1st Defendant as presented by the 2nd Defendant (her secret media agent), but the Plaintiff vehemently refused that neither can he allow the platform nor himself to be used to defend the weighty allegations bothering on corruption, fraud, profligacy, financial recklessness and economic sabotage levelled against the minister, since the facts were not within his knowledge and comprehension.”
The foregoing notwithstanding, the Plaintiff is alleging that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Defendants went ahead to write the advertorial, The Unveiling of Operation Destroy Diezani, and sponsored the publication of same in newspapers, including THISDAY and VANGUARD newspapers of 26th March, 2014, using his platform’s letter-head, its e-mail address as well as his personal Gsm Number.
The Plaintiff avers that since the publications of the stories and advertorials, with his platform, name and telephone number, he has suffered untold continued to receive calls from family members, professional colleagues and church-members, accusing him of compromise, supporting corruption, economic sabotage and being bought over by the presidency and the ministry of Petroleum Affairs; a development that forced him to go into hiding for some time.
No date has been fixed for hearing.