Transportation Minister, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, has given Messrs. Femi Fani-Kayode and Lere Olayinka a seven-day ultimatum to tender an unreserved apology over their claims that he is the owner of the $43 million found by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in an apartment at Osborne Towers on Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. The duo also alleged on Twitter that the apartment is owned by Mr. Amaechi, while Mr. Olayinka, a media aide to Mr. Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, alleged that Mr. Amaechi is involved in an adulterous relationship.
The minister’s demand for an apology and compensation was made in letters addressed to Messrs. Fani-Kayode, spokesperson to former President Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organization, and Olayinka by his lawyers, Lateef Fagbemi and Co. Dated 14 April, both letters said the Transport Minister wants the withdrawal of the tweet using @realFFK to claim: “The $43 million is Rotimi Amaechi’s. He owns the flat it was found in too. NIA story is fake news! NIA does not keep cash in Minister’s flats!”
Mr. Olayinka’s Facebook posts, noted Mr. Amaechi’s lawyers, said: “The Osborne Towers, a luxury residential complex in Ikoyi, Lagos, where the EFCC said it found $43,447,947,27, 000 pounds (sic) and N23,218, 000 on Wednesday, is owned by Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. The house was built by Alhaji Adamu Muazu, the former Chairman of PDP through a loan from GTBank. He could not repay the loan so GTB took over the house and allocated the penthouse to Muazu and two flats. Rotimi Amaechi bought TWO of the flats (7A and 7B). He then gave 7A to Mo Abudu, the TV presenter; who is suspected to be his girlfriend.”
For Mr. Fani-Kayode, Mr. Amaechi noted that as a lawyer, the spokesperson to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign organization should know that anyone desirous of finding out the ownership of a property, “especially in a world class land documentation system and facilities like Lagos State should avail himself of the facilities by conducting a diligent search in the land registry”.
“You intentionally failed to do so as to achieve your malicious aim. For the umpteenth time, let it be known that our client, Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, has no house anywhere in Lagos,” the letter stated.
Mr. Amaechi’s lawyers noted that Mr. Fani-Kayode’s tweet on 14 April was viewed 316,000 followers, retweeted 1,209 times and favorited by 434 followers at the time they wrote the letter, noting that the numbers were still rising, a condition required for a successful defamation case.
On account of these, Mr. Amaechi’s lawyers, on the instruction of their client, gave a seven-day ultimatum to Mr. Fani-Kayode to issue an apology to be published in five major national newspapers and payment of N500 million in compensatory damages to avoid litigation.
For Mr. Olayinka, the lawyers reckoned that his position as a government official should imbue him with the knowledge of processes of property checks. The lawyers noted that Mr. Olayinka’s Facebook posts of 13 April was viewed by 5,000 friends, with 47 likes, 84 comments and 43 shares. Mr. Amaechi’s lawyers also noted that their client is innocent of the allegation of adultery brought against him by Mr. Olayinka, noting that his posts provide a valid ground for defamation.
“In light of the foregoing and in the spirit of second chance, we have our client’s instructions to give you an ultimatum of seven days from the receipt of this letter to issue an apology in five national dailies and your Twitter handle. Your apology, which should be heartfelt, must be a total withdrawal of your claim and its imputation, must also contain an expression of deep regret for this unwarranted attack and must also contain a retraction of the false statement of yours,” said Mr. Amaechi’s lawyers.
In addition, they are also demanding the sum of N750 million, which could increase if the publication is not immediately retracted. Failure to meet the demands, warned the lawyers, would attract litigation.