The Nation newspaper has apologised to Mr. Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, over a story it picked from the News Agency of Nigeria on Saturday11 July, “More trouble for Magu as new facts on re-looting of recovered funds emerge.”
The Respected rights crusader, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), according to The Nation, “was not paid N28 million or any sum to handle any case by the suspended Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman Ibrahim Magu. He also never prosecuted any case for the commission.”
The newspaper went further: “We apologise to Mr Falana, who we hold in high esteem, for the story which our Online section unwittingly picked from the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). We hereby retract the story. We agree that the report imputed against Falana was false, and on realising that, we took the story down. We regret the damage the story would have caused him and apologise unreservedly to him.”
On 12 July, Falana’s lawyer, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, SAN, wrote the letter below to the Editor of The Nation:
July 12, 2020
The Nation Newspaper,
27B Fatai Atere Way,
PRE-ACTION DEMAND REGARDING YOUR DEFAMATORY IMPUTATIONS AGAINST MR FEMI FALANA, SAN, IN YOUR ONLINE PUBLICATION TITLED: “MORE TROUBLE FOR MAGU AS NEW FACTS ON RE-LOOTING OF RECOVERED FUNDS EMERGE”
My client, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, has consulted me in respect of an article headed “More Trouble For Magu As New Facts On Re-looting Of Recovered Funds Emerge” which you published to the entire world on your online medium (https://thenationonline.net/breaking-more-trouble-for-Magu-as-new-facts-on-re-looting-of-recovered-funds-emerge/) in the early hours of today, Sunday the 12th day of July, 2020.
By your said publication, the following reference was made to my client:
NAN also reports that the PCARA revealed how investigative reports on the EFCC’s activities by the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) exposed acts of corruption and money laundering against some EFCC officials, including Magu.
The NFIU reports established that the Acting Chairman has been using different sources to siphon money from the EFCC, and in some cases collecting bribes from suspects.
The report has shown that a particular Bureau de Change owned by Ahmed Ibrahim Shanono linked to the Acting Chairman based in Kaduna has more than 158 accounts and has been receiving huge sums of funds.
The link to Magu was also established by the payment of =N=28Million to FALANA who is a close associate and ally of the Acting Chairman, the PCARA report further revealed.
Clearly by the above, you meant and intended to mean and convey to your readership that:
(i) Magu, as Acting Chairman of the EFCC, used different sources to siphon money from the Commission and also to collect bribes from suspects;
(ii) that some of the siphoned moneys and bribes have been traced to a Bureau de Change in Kaduna belonging to one Ahmed Ibrahim Shanono who is a confirmed money launderer for Magu; and
(iii) as part of the money laundering exercise, Mr. Ahmed Ibrahim Shanono’s Bureau de Change passed the sum of =N=28Million through my client.
The publication and the imputations it conveyed is damning, as you will no doubt agree with me. It is particularly damning against my client because his entire career as a lawyer has been devoted to fighting human rights abuses and corruption in high and low places (among the many public causes he has become noted for). So, to charge such a person with the imputations in your publication is not something that he can (in fairness to himself and the reputation he has worked for all his life) ignore despite that he is also a well-known advocate and defender of press freedom.
It is noteworthy that no attempt was made by you to contact and request my client to react to the allegation before publishing and circulating it to your worldwide readers. The impression my client gets from this is that you were well aware that you were publishing a planted story, hence there was no desire or need on your part to seek and balance it with my client’s reaction. This speaks volume as to your professionalism, as well as your malicious intent.
My client does not deny that he is a supporter and public advocate of the EFCC, and indeed of all agencies set-up to rescue our country and its downtrodden masses from the noose of corruption. He has been since the inception of the EFCC and the tenure of its first Chairman, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu.
As a token of his support and public advocacy against corruption, he has, since the Commission was established in 2003 and up till now, refused and rejected all approaches by the high and mighty (who are loaded with cash and able to pay for his services and thus save him from the indignity of having to criminally scrape around for =N=28m or any sum whatsoever from anyone in the EFCC) to take-up their cases or causes against the EFCC. He stands tall to also say despite his public advocacy for the Commission and its anti-graft efforts, all reports or allegations of human rights abuse of disobedience of court orders by the Commission or any of its officials that came to his attention were always taken-up by him with its Management.
My client acknowledges that just as his anti-corruption activism have won him friends, they have also bred enmity from those who see things from a different perspective and have therefore always tried to paint and present him (or anyone that strives or claims to be different) as someone that is also not free from the stains of corruption! Not long ago, these elements invented and spread through the media the lie that my client was a beneficiary of a property purchase from the EFCC. When given the opportunity to prove the allegation, the publisher failed to take up the opportunity but apologised for the false publication. I am not too sure that your case will turn out different if you permit it to degenerate to the level of being sued.
In the circumstance, my immediate instruction is to demand that you acknowledge your wrongdoing, expressly admit that what you imputed against my client was false, and apologise for your unprofessionalism and the damage you have caused to him. I do hope that you will, within the next 48 hours, comply with this gentlemanly request by publication on the front page of your newspaper. Failing compliance, my instruction is to issue a Writ in the tort of defamation in other to afford you an opportunity to prove what you imputed against his my client’s character.
Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, SAN.