Alleged Libel: Gbajabiamila Demands Apology, Retraction

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The Chief of Staff to the President and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has issued a “cease and desist” notice to Mr Segun Olatunji, Editor of FirstNews, over alleged “false and malicious defamatory” articles published by him or published off his interview with a news platform.

Gbajabiamila, in two letters dated May 3, 2024, by his solicitor, Dr Kemi Pinheiro (SAN) of Pinheiro LP, alerted the public to a “series of deliberate and coordinated malicious campaign of calumny against his person in various print, electronic and social media platforms”.

The CoS demanded a public apology from Olatunji and First News and a retraction of the alleged false and malicious defamatory articles within seven days.

He also warned persons already hosting the said publications on their platforms or considering repeating the publications, of the legal implications of doing so, including civil and criminal proceedings under the cybercrime laws, among others.

The letter to Olatunji reads in part: “Our client’s attention has been drawn to the series of deliberate and coordinated malicious campaigns of calumny against his person in various print, electronic media and social media platforms arising from your article published on the 28th day of January 2024 (republished on the 6th of April, 2024) and interview you granted to the same online media platform Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) on the 4th day of April, 2024 in relation to your arrest and detention by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA).

“By the said article and interview you falsely and maliciously published of and concerning our client defamatory words, wherein he was either expressly or by innuendo portrayed as a fraudulent, corrupt, dishonest, shady, unreliable and disloyal person who is unfit to hold the exalted office of Chief of Staff to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

The letter demanded that Olatunji, “within 7 days of receipt of this letter, cause to be published in two national newspapers a full page unequivocal public retraction and apology in terms to be approved by our firm; and in this regard we expect you to revert to us within 3 days of receipt of this letter.

“You shall also be expected to circulate the retraction and apology on the same platforms wherein your article and interview were circulated”.

“It warned that unless Olatunji responds satisfactorily, Pinheiro LP would seek exemplary and aggravated damages for libel, an injunction restraining him from further or similar publications, “an order for retraction of the defamatory words and a public apology in the terms and manners to be stipulated by us and published in at least two national dailies”.

Furthermore, the law firm advised the “unsuspecting members of the public who are already indulged or may be tempted to indulge in the dissemination of these obviously false and defamatory contents to immediately cease and desist from sharing, posting, forwarding, or disseminating the said contents or otherwise engage in cyberstalking of our client, premised on the defamatory words contained in the aforementioned interview and article.

““Unless this warning is heeded, our client will not hesitate to ensure that such perpetrators face the wrath of the law as provided for under Cybercrimes Prohibition and Prevention Act 2024 (As amended) and Sections 375 and 376 of the Criminal Code, and Sections 391, 392, 393, 394, and 395 of the Penal Code as well as a civil action in defamation”.

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