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Adeyanju threatens to sue HURIWA over defamatory statement against top NNPC staff

Deji Adeyanju Law Firm, representing a top Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) staff member, Ms. Asabe Waziri, has threatened to sue the Human Rights Writers…

Deji Adeyanju Law Firm, representing a top Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) staff member, Ms. Asabe Waziri, has threatened to sue the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) over what they termed a defamatory statement.

In a letter dated April 24, 2024, and addressed to Emmanuel Onwubiko, the convener of HURIWA, Marvin Omorogbe, Esq, representing Waziri, demanded an immediate retraction and apology from HURIWA.

The letter condemns HURIWA’s accusations of misconduct against Waziri and rejects insinuations of corruption, citing ongoing legal proceedings and evidence of criminal charges against individuals associated with the opposing party.

Furthermore, the letter asserts that HURIWA’s actions have severely damaged Waziri’s public image and infringed upon her constitutional rights. It demands an immediate retraction of the letter sent to NNPC, a formal apology, a public apology in two national dailies, and financial compensation amounting to N100,000,000 for defamation.

The letter read, “Our client’s attention has been drawn to media reports regarding the above subject matter and she has indeed sighted a letter dated April 19, 2024, authored by HURIWA wherein you requested her employer, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited to avail you sensitive documents relating to her employment, salaries, alleged ownership of properties, etc, all of which are protected by law, including the Freedom of Information Act which you referenced in your letter.

“We must preemptively question not only your motive in writing the above mentioned letter, but also your locus to dabble into an issue bordering on a civil contract that is already before several courts of competent jurisdiction in Nigeria, including the Court of Appeal.

“For clarity, it is important to state that our client works for a private company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited. Accordingly, her employment information are not such that are permissible to be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

“Our client condemns the conclusion in paragraph 3 of your above referenced letter where you unconscionably accused her of being involved in alleged misconduct and engaging in behaviours inconsistent with the standard of a public servant.

“…Despite the pendency of the Court of Appeal proceedings, Abeh Signature Limited has resorted to deploying thugs to our client’s residence, sponsoring media campaigns against her, engaging Non Governmental Organisations to carry out smear campaigns against her, and engaging in self help, all in a bid to gain access to and take possession of the property in question.

‘Additionally, our client outrightly rejects the insinuation of corruption in paragraph 4 of your above letter, wherein you questioned our client’s constitutional right to purchase properties, having worked for close to three decades. It is our position that your purported freedom of information request relating to her employment, salaries and properties exposes your under belly, bad faith and gross abuse of the provisions of the law to oppress our client.

Our client is at a loss as to why you cherry picked court orders referenced in paragraph 6 of your above mentioned letter. Again, and at the risk of repetition, the said Court order is a subject of appeal, and for which the Court of Appeal, Abuja has reserved judgment. However, and perhaps more importantly, it is our instruction to draw your attention to the fact that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has filed a charge; CR/222/2023 against the alter ego of Abeh Signature Limited, Mr. Cecil Osakwe, his lawyer, Victor Giwa and one other, for theft, destruction of property, criminal mischief, criminal intimidation, electricity theft and criminal trespass all in relation to the property in question and same is currently pending before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, awaiting arraignment.

“…Putting the foregoing into consideration, we note that your attempt to drag our client’s employer into a private dispute between our client and Abeh Signature Limited; the request for her personal information which are not available to be disclosed under the FOI Act; and the several insinuation of corrupt practices in your above referenced letter which you subsequently leaked to the press, despite the pendency of several suits over the issue, has not only severely damaged her image in the eyes of the general public, but is also an egregious breach of our client’s right to private life, right to own property, and right to fair hearing, all of which are protected by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

“In conclusion, our client finds your letter highly offensive, meddlesome and an attempt to brow beat her into waiving her constitutional rights. We, therefore have our client’s instruction to demand for the following; a. An immediate retraction of the above referenced letter you wrote to our client’s employer, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited; b. A formal apology addressed directly to our client; c. A public apology in two national dailies; d. The sum of N100,000,000 (One hundred million Naira) for the defamatory insinuations in the said letter.”

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