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Emefiele Threatens to sue Akpabio N25bn over alleged defamation

Emefiele, CBN

Issues heated exchange of high-profile figures in Nigeria’s political and financial landscape, Dr. Godwin Emefiele, the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has taken a stand against defamatory statements made by the President of the Senate Godswill Akpabio.

The controversy stems from comments aired on Channels Television around February 18, 2024, which Dr. Emefiele alleges have wrongfully damaged his reputation and portrayed him as the principal cause of Nigeria’s current economic challenges.

During the contentious broadcast, the Senate President accused Dr. Emefiele of contributing significantly to the nation’s economic difficulties, suggesting a level of criminality but admitting uncertainty about specific charges to be laid against him.

These remarks have not only sparked widespread discussion among Nigerians but have also drawn criticism for potentially undermining the integrity and independence of the judiciary, given that Dr. Emefiele is presently defending charges laid against him since August 14, 2023.

In a letter to Akpabio penned by Matthew Burkaa, SAN, representing Dr. Emefiele, the former CBN Governor expressed his dismay over the accusations, emphasizing their baseless nature and the harm they have caused to his esteem and reputation.

The letter made available for journalists in Abuja on Wednesday highlights the improbability of Dr. Emefiele acting unilaterally without the approval of the President or the Federal Executive Council, thereby questioning the accuracy of the Senate President’s assertions.

Dr. Emefiele’s legal counsel has issued a firm demand for an immediate retraction of the Senate President’s statements, alongside a written apology to be circulated through the same channels that broadcasted the defamatory comments.

Moreover, Dr. Emefiele is seeking compensation to the tune of Twenty-Five Billion Naira (N25,000,000,000) for the “willful and unjustifiable denigration” of his reputation. Failure to comply with these demands could lead to further legal action, underscoring the seriousness with which Dr. Emefiele and his legal team are approaching the matter.

The letter reads in full: “We are Solicitors to Dr. Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele, the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (hereinafter referred to as “Our Client”), on whose brief and instruction, we write this letter to you as follows:

“Our Client’s attention has been drawn to a widely circulated statement made by you against him on Channels Television on or about the 18th February, 2024 which he considers false, distorted and clearly aimed at disparaging his character and indeed made in bad faith. The said statement is contained in a video and was made by you to a large gathering of persons and circulated globally via uncountable online media. The statement which has now gone viral had this heading attached to its preface ”we don’t know what crime to charge emefiele with” in the video, you stated clearly and unequivocally, among other things, as follows:

‘So the kind of debt and the kind of economic mess that we are in, a lot of people do not understand, I remember President Obama saying you cannot know Washington until you get to Washington. So by the time we went in to look at the economic state of the country it was terrible, so the Former Governor of Central of Bank of Nigeria we didn’t even know what to charge him, whether to charge him for putting foam on the … or to charge him for illegal possession of Fire Arms or to Charge him for printing notes without income, I don’t know what we are going to charge him with. But, what I know is that, yes there is hunger today because of the policies that they took.’

“The above statement, whether taken in their ordinary, figurative or literal meaning portrayed Our Client as:

“The cause of the entire hardship in Nigeria today is as a result of the policies of the previous administration.

“A serial offender whose action is responsible for all the hardship experienced by Nigerians today.

“A person who has committed offences that are so numerous that the government is confused as to which of the offences to prefer a charge against him.

“Your Excellency, as the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, you certainly know, or have reasons to know that the Federal Government of Nigeria had since the 14th August, 2023 preferred Charges against Our Client to which he had long pleaded not guilty and is presently defending same to exonerate himself and show that he is not guilty of the said allegations. It is therefore disturbing, that such a statement would be made by the Head of the Legislature of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on a matter that is clearly subjudice. Your statement, with the greatest respect, clearly undermines the honour and integrity of the Court and its independence and indeed has the propensity of prejudicing the case against Our Client. Having submitted to the jurisdiction of the Court, it is only fair and proper that the Court should be allowed to determine the issues submitted to it without unnecessary pressure from any other arm of Government.

“Secondly Sir, as a Senior member of the Bar, a former Governor of a State, A Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and former Minister under the immediate past Administration, Your statement attributing the present economic woes of the country solely on Our Client is most appalling and exposes the inaccuracies in Your assertions, especially, as you were a major player in the immediate Past Administration and worked closely with Our Client and indeed witnessed the innovations he introduced in the banking sector and its impact on the economy whilst in office, as well as the role he played despite all odds in salvaging Nigeria in the P & ID Saga and the positive result it brought for Nigeria.

“You are also aware that no single policy was carried out by Our Client without the approval, directive or authorization of the President and/or the Federal Executive Council of which you were a key and powerful member.

“It is pursuant to the above and without delving into the matter presently pending in Court that Our Client has instructed that we write to Your good offices and demand the immediate retraction of Your statement which has gone viral and are considered clearly defamatory of Our Client

“These baseless and false allegations clearly defames the character of Our Client and has also caused him great pains and embarrassment as it has lowered his esteem before the right thinking members of the Society in addition to the obvious odium and opprobrium from the unsuspecting members of the Society as a result of the falsity contained in that statement.

“We therefore have Our Client’s further instruction to demand from you an unreserved apology in writing, published and circulated by the same medium with which you have defamed his character and the sum of Twenty-Five Billion Naira (N25,000,000,000) as reasonable compensation for the willful and unjustifiable denigration of his hard earned reputation. In the event that you fail, refuse or neglect to comply with this legitimate demand, Our Client will be at liberty to seek the appropriate redress available to him under the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Whilst anticipating your compliance with the above, kindly accept the assurances of our best regards.”

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