As Lawyers threaten to sue SaharaReporters, they also make admission that suspect was part of rigging meeting
by Adebayo Hassan
A former Minister of Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, who is one of the characters caught on tape plotting the rigging of the 2014 governorship election in Ekiti State, has threatened news website, Sahara Reporters, and its publisher, Omoyele Sowore, for reporting the scandal.
Mr. Obanikoro warned the website of legal action if it continues with its reporting.
In the February 19 letter by his United States-based counsel, Joseph Tacopina, Mr. Obanikoro said the reporting of the rigging tape by Sahara Reporters was “merely propaganda for Sen. Obanikoro’s opponents”.
He said the audio recording of the meeting, involving Mr. Obanikoro; Minister of Police Affairs, Jelili Adesiyan; the Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose; and Aliyu Momoh, a Brigadier General, heading 3rd Artillery Brigade, Akure, where strategies for rigging the election were plotted, was a fabrication.
“Additionally, even assuming the authenticity of this audio and it was not manipulated, there are no statements by Sen. Obanikoro that substantiate your claims,” the lawyer said.
“Simply put these alleged statements are not heard on this tape and nothing on the audio supports such purported claims. In fact, the audio is of an alleged vague conversation concerning security for an election, not election rigging, fraud or bribing officials. You clearly knew this fact when you reported the above-referenced defamatory statements.”
Mr. Obanikoro, who has been re-nominated for a ministerial position by President Goodluck Jonathan, warned of severe legal consequences if the reporting continues.
“I demand that you, Sahara Reporters and /or any entity under your control immediately cease and desist from making any false and disparaging statements about Sen. Obanikoro on the internet or to any third party and immediately and publically retract the above referenced defamatory statements.
“If you fail to do so and continue your defamatory conduct, my office will aggressively pursue all legal remedies against you, Sahara Reporters and/or any entity under your control, including commencing a defamation action against you wherein we will seek substantial compensatory damages, punitive damages, sanctions and attorney’s fees.”
Mr. Jonathan had earlier dismissed the tape as a fabrication despite admissions by the Police Affairs Minister, Mr. Adesiyan, and Mr. Fayose.
The purported subject of the meeting, as claimed in the letter by Mr. Obanikoro’s counsel, contradicts the claim of Mr. Adesiyan who said Mr. Fayose was merely complaining that Mr. Momoh was cooperating with the All Progressives Congress.
But in his reaction, Mr. Sowore, speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, said Sahara Reporters will not stop reporting corrupt practices and abuse of public office “in particular the conspiracy by Obanikoro and others in carrying out subversion of democracy”.
“We have received the letter. We have sent the letter to our lawyers and they are heading the legal aspect of it. But we remain committed to reporting on all forms corruption and abuse of public office in particular the conspiracy by Obanikoro and others in carrying the subversion of democracy,” Mr. Sowore said.