The immediate past Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, has threatened news website, Sahara Reporters, and its publisher, Omoyele Sowore, for publishing the audio file, where the plot to allegedly rig the 2014 governorship election in Ekiti State, was hatched.
Obanikoro warned the website of legal action if it continues reporting the scandal, which has now come to be known as “Ekitigate”.
In a February 19 letter by his United States-based counsel, Joseph Tacopina, the ex-minister said the reporting of the rigging tape by Sahara Reporters was “merely propaganda for Sen. Obanikoro’s opponents”.
Tacopina said the audio file 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, whose ministerial nomination by President Goodluck Jonathan is facing stiff opposition from All Progressives Congress senators, 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”.
When contacted by PREMIUM TIMES for his reaction, Mr. Sowore 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”, he said.