N90bn campaign fund: Vanguard apologises to Osinbajo over libelous publication

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Vanguard Newspapers has apologised to the vice president, Pro. Yemi Osinbajo and retracted a report it published about him.

The apology followed yesterday’s threat by the vice president that he was prepared to waive his constitutionally guaranteed immunity to ensure persons who spread falsehood about him were brought to book.

He was reacting to a report in Vanguard in which the paper quoted a former deputy spokesman for the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Timi Frank to have said that Osinbajo’s recent experiences “has nothing to do with 2023 but alleged mismanagement of about N90 billion released by the Federal Inland Revenue Inland Service (FIRS) to prosecute the last general elections in favour of the APC.”

“In the past few days, a spate of reckless and malicious falsehoods have been peddled in the media against me by a group of malicious individuals. The defamatory and misleading assertions invented by this clique have been making the social media rounds anonymously.

“I have today (yesterday) instructed the commencement of legal action against two individuals, one Timi Frank and another Katch Ononuju, who have put their names to these odious falsehoods.

“I will waive my constitutional immunity to enable the most robust adjudication of these claims of libel and malicious falsehood,” he said.

Instructively, his solicitor, Mr. Femi Falana, wrote to Vanguard to retract the offensive publication with 24 hours or face court action.

Falana, in a correspondence issued yesterday wrote: Re: N90bn FIRS election fund, Osinbajo’s problem, not 2023 politics-Frank

“We are Solicitors to Professor Yemi Osinbanjo SAN, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria [hereinafter referred to as “our client”) on whose behalf and instructions we write this letter.

“Our client’s attention has been drawn to your highly libelous story entitled “N90bn FIRS election fund, Osinbajo’s problem, not 2023 politics-Frank” recklessly published in the Vanguard Newspaper edition of September 23, 2019.

“In the story credited to one Comrade Timi Frank, your Newspaper informed your large readership that our client’s travail “has nothing to do with 2023, but alleged mismanagement of about N90 Billion Naira [sic] released by the Federal Inland Revenue Inland Service (FIRS) to prosecute the last general elections in favour of the APC”.

The false contextual background and specific untrue and defamatory statement include the following:

“The Presidency discovered how Osinbajo allegedly mismanaged N90billion from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

“When confronted by the Presidency, he confirmed to General Buhari that he indeed allegedly took N90billion from FIRS but it was used for the 2019 Presidential election campaign in Strategic States of the southwest.

“Gen Buhari asked for a breakdown of how the money was spent and he said he gave N11 billion to Lagos State APC leader but when the said National leader and one former APC Chairman were invited for an explanation, it was confirmed that Osinbajo gave only N5billion and not N11billion to Lagos State.

“The Cabal is asking to know how come they beat PDP in the South-west with less than 60,000 votes if the money was actually spent in the Strategic States of the South-west as allegedly claimed.’

“The activist insisted that if the information is true, Osinbajo must resign his position as Vice President, adding that such is akin to the characteristics of ‘yahoo boys.”

“It is clear that the entire publication was a vicious, wicked and reckless ploy to impugn the reputation of our client and lower him in the estimation of right thinking members of the public. Without any scintilla of evidence you deliberately gave the dubious impression that our client colluded with the Federal Inland Revenue Service to divert public funds to the tune of N90 billion to prosecute the 2019 general elections in the Southwest region.

“In view of the foregoing we have our client’s firm instructions to request for the immediate retraction of the offensive and derogatory publication coupled with apology prominently published in your Newspaper.

“Take Notice that if we do not receive your formal retraction and apology within 24 hours of the receipt of this letter, we shall proceed with our client’s instructions to seek legal remedies including aggravated damages in the appropriate High Court.”

Responding, Vanguard wrote yesterday that it had found the story to have lacked “factual substance” and “we hereby retract it in its entirety.”

In a statement ‘Retraction / apology to VP Yemi Osinbajo,’ the paper said: On our website publication of Monday, September 23, 2019 we published a story titled ‘N90bn FIRS Election Fund: Osinbajo’s problem, not 2023 politics’. We have since discovered that the story lacks factual substance and we hereby retract it in its entirety

“We tender our profound apology to Professor Yemi Osinbajo SAN, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on whom the story touches directly and the All Progressives Congress, A.P.C. for any inconvenience or embarrassment the publication has occasioned them. We hold Professor Osinbajo, S.A.N. in the highest esteem.”

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