Seplat Energy Plc., a Nigerian independent energy company, has dragged two online publishers, Persecond News Limited and Street Journal Limited, to an Imo State High Court for alleged libel.
The firm, according to court processes sighted by newsmen, has also asked the court to order each of the news steads to pay N100 billion in general and exemplary damages.
Persecondnews and Street Journal had in the wake of the controversy that trailed President Mohammadu Buhari’s approval of the $1.28 billion sale of the entire ExxonMobil USA shares in Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPNU) to Seplat Energy, alleged that a $100 Million was given to bribe some top government officials “with a view to compromising the process leading to the point where the purported approval was announced on Monday by President Muhammadu Buhari”.
However, Seplat promptly denied the allegation, saying: “Such reports are wholly untrue and the company will pursue legal action against any parties involved in disseminating false information related to its business”.
Consequently, in a suit marked HOW/901/2022, which has Perseconds News Limited, Olufemi Sonoye, Dr Olu Cole, Samantha Fox, Nkechi sonoye, Akinsola Olakunle Ayodele, and Stella Igwe as Defendants, and another lawsuit marked HOW/902/2022, which has Street Journal Limited, Bowale Oluwole Arisekola, Felix Olokede, and Arisekola Morenike Olatun as Defendants, Seplat seeks a declaration by the court that the report identically titled “Seplat/ExxonMobil $100 Million Bribery Gate: Heads may roll as President Buhari orders investigation”, by both news platforms in their Wednesday, August 10, 2022 editions amounted to a libel against the energy firm.
Seplat, according to the court papers, also seeks an order directing each of the news stables to publish retractions of the said publication in a prominent part of two national newspapers and their respective news platforms “with a written apology” to their firm.
Other reliefs sought were: “The sum of N50 billion in general damages for libel,
“The sum of N50 billion in exemplary damages for libel.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants from publishing further defamatory articles on the Plaintiff through the Defendants’ website or by other means or media; and cost of action in the sum of N100 million”.
Meanwhile, the trial judge, Justice K.A Leweanya, has made an order directing both parties to maintain the status quo pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.