The Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 Presidential election, Atiku Abubakar, has filed N2.5bn libel suit against Lauretta Onochie, the Special Assistant on Social Media to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Naija News reports that the former Vice-President sued Onochie for her alleged libelous tweet via her Twitter handle on May 7, 2019, which suggested that Abubakar was on the watch list of security operatives in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and had traveled to shop for terrorists in the Middle East.
This online news platform understands the PDP Presidential candidate filed the N2.5bn suit against Onochie before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital on June 26, through his lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN).
“To say that the claimant is shopping for terrorists knowing same to be untrue and without any foundation is not only dishonest and reckless, but is calculated and politically designed to instigate security agents against him not only in the UAE but across the world,” he stated in his statement of claim accompanying the suit.
Denying the allegations contained in the said tweet, the PDP Presidential candidate said the tweet was “politically orchestrated” “solely to cause maximum damage” to his “high reputation” while challenging “the purported victory” of Onochie’s boss, President Buhari in the last presidential election at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
Naija News understands that the lawsuit is coming after Abubakar had in a May 14, 2019 letter, demanded an apology, retraction, and payment of N500m compensation from Onochie “to assuage” the damage allegedly caused him by her social media post.
The Presidential candidate also threatened to sue her should she fail to accede to the demand “within 48 hours”.
Alleging that the President’s aide was unmoved by his demand letter, the former Vice President, in his statement of claim accompanying his suit, stated that rather than show “remorse by retracting her earlier publication”, she further, on May 20, made “another derogatory publication and also published same globally online in the social and other print media” against his person.
Abubakar said sometimes in May this year, he had embarked on a foreign trip to the UAE as he had done over the years, and while on the said trip, Onochie on May 7, 2019, wrote, through her twitter handle: “Atiku on UAE watchlist- Security sources Security operatives in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are keeping a close tab on a former Nigerian Vice Pres Atiku Abubakar who has been in the Middle East nation for several weeks now What is he doing there? Me: Shopping for Terrorists?”
The claimant said “the defamatory publication” was also published by several newspapers nationwide and on several social media news.
Abubakar denied the allegations contained in the said publication which he described as “a figment of the imagination of the defendant”, but said it portrayed him “as an evil man, mentor of terrorists, someone who has links with terrorists, and a person who is interested in destabilizing the peace and unity of Nigeria”.
The former Vice-President added: “The publication also portrayed the claimant as a security threat and terrorist to right thinking members of the public and the society at large.”
Abubakar noted that “the odious publication has clearly rubbished the claimant’s image and reputation. It has caused him national and international backlash and embarrassment and has done incalculable damage to him.”