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Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire

24.06.2024 Featured After Ojukwu’s Abduction, Orelope-Adefulire Asks FIJ To Pay N100m or Risk N500m Lawsuit

Published 24th Jun, 2024

By Daniel Ojukwu

Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs, wants the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) to pay a sum of N100million as “compensation” for her “reputation” that FIJ “maligned malicious and/or recklessly”.

The N100million fee is one of two settlement requests made by Orelope-Adefulire regarding this story and this story about financial irregularities in the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs (OSSAP-SDGs), published by FIJ in 2023, for which she petitioned the inspector-general of police, consequently triggering the abduction of FIJ reporter Daniel Ojukwu by the police.

Through Muiz Banire & Associates, she sent three pre-action letters addressed individually to Ojukwu, the Chairman of FIJ’s Board of Trustees, and ‘Fisayo Soyombo, FIJ’s founder, insisting that if her settlement demands were not met within 14 days, she would institute a N500million lawsuit against all parties.

FIJ stands by its stories on the OSSAP-SDGs. Therefore, its lawyers have written Orelope-Adefulire back to communicate that there would be no retraction or a N100million payment.

“Nothing in your communication discloses substantive facts that negate the facts in the publications or establish their falsity,” responded FIJ’s legal representatives Slingstone Law, led by Abimbola Ojenike. “Consequently, there is no legal or factual ground for any liability claim.”

Slingstone Law expressed readiness to engage the office in court, and condemned Banire’s clients for engineering Ojukwu’s abduction and incarceration between May 1 and 10, 2024.

READ MORE: SPECIAL REPORT: 2 Weeks Before End of Buhari’s Tenure, Special Assistant Adejoke Adefulire Paid a Restaurant N147.1m to Build Classrooms in Lagos. A Lot Was Amiss

In the eight-page letters signed by Babatunde Lawal on M. A. Banire & Associates’s behalf, the lawyers confirmed that their client prompted the police to kidnap Ojukwu in the hope that it would force FIJ to delete its reports.

Page 1 of M. A. Banire's letter
Page 1 of M. A. Banire’s letter
Page 2 of M. A. Banire's letter
Page 2 of M. A. Banire’s letter
Page 3 of M. A. Banire's letter
Page 3 of M. A. Banire’s letter

READ MORE: ‘It’s Standard Investigative Procedure’ — Force PRO Defends 10-Day Abduction of FIJ Reporter

Page 4 of M. A. Banire's letter
Page 4 of M. A. Banire’s letter
Page 5 of M. A. Banire's letter
Page 5 of M. A. Banire’s letter
Page 6 of M. A. Banire's letter
Page 6 of M. A. Banire’s letter
Page 7 of M. A. Banire's letter
Page 7 of M. A. Banire’s letter
Page 8 of M. A. Banire's letter
Page 8 of M. A. Banire’s letter

“The said publications are, without a doubt, designed to damage the reputation of our client, a purpose it is currently serving,” the letters read.

“Due to the popularity and effectiveness of the Incorporated Trustees of Foundation for Investigative Journalism and Social Justice online outfit and your personal online distribution networks, millions of people have received and read your defamatory publications against our client.

READ MORE: How Orelope Adefulire’s OSSAP-SDGs Paid N47.5m for Shady Contract on Amosun’s Request

“The said publications cast a direct aspersion on the person of our client, to right-thinking members of society, as you have presented our client as a corrupt official who engages in the business of syphoning public funds and diverting same for private use.

“Based on the foregoing, our client was forced to engage her solicitors to write to the Inspector General of Police regarding the libellous publications made by you against the person of our client, urging the Nigerian Police Force to conduct investigation into the said publications and take appropriate action where necessary,” the letters read.

“Despite our client’s petition to the Inspector General of Police, concerning your libellous publications against the person of our client on your online and social media platforms, you have failed, refused and neglected to take down the said libellous publications.”

In its response, Slingstone LP’s Ojenike rejected all claims and expressed readiness to accept all originating court processes.

Slingstone LP's response
Slingstone LP’s response
Slingstone LP's response

“Our Clients affirm the truth of the publication and refute your allegation of defamation,” FIJ’s lawyers wrote.

“The investigative report is the result of a meticulous investigation into irregularities in procurement processes at the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (OSSAP-SDGs), held by Mrs. Adejoke Orelope Adefulire.

“Our Clients uphold ethical standards in reporting on matters of public interest and assert that the publications are factual in all material particulars. The comments made in the publications are fair and made in the overriding interest of public transparency, accountability, and good governance.

“Notably, nothing in your communication discloses substantive facts that negate the facts in the publications or establish their falsity. Consequently, there is no legal or factual ground for any liability claim.

“What is noteworthy is your Client’s admission of instigating the unlawful arrest and detention of the author, Mr. Daniel Ojukwu, for purported cybercrimes without showing that the facts published are indeed false or calculated to cause a breakdown of law and order or a threat to life. This deliberate misuse of state power for the suppression of the press is now being challenged in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/804/24: Daniel Ojukwu v. Inspector General of Police & Ors before the Federal High Court, Lagos.”\

THE STORIES

In one of its investigative pieces on the OSSAP-SDGs, FIJ had reported how, with two weeks left of Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential reign, the office headed by Orelope-Adefulire sent N147.1 million for the building of classrooms and a skill acquisition centre to the account of a restaurant.

READ MORE: REPUBLISHED: The Orelope Adefulire Story Behind Police Abduction of FIJ Reporter

FIJ’s report also highlighted how the restaurant secured and began executing a contract for the government without receiving any initial payments less than two years after it began operations.

On October 6, 2023, when FIJ visited the community that should have hosted school, the edifice could not be traced.

Also, when FIJ rang Nkiru Ezekwesili, owner of Enseno Global Ventures (Enseno GV), the Abuja-based restaurant, on October 17, 2023, she denied any knowledge of the project.

By the way, this same restaurant has also posed as an engineering company to take N367.46 million from the government.

In a related development, FIJ also reported how on Sunday, February 26, 2023, barely 24 hours after the country’s presidential election, the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs (OSSAP-SDGs) paid N47,511,621.63 to a certain Tru 3 Nigeria Limited was for the construction of one unit of six blocks of classrooms at the central senatorial district of Ogun State. This was a one-time payment for a contract that was never publicised, and for which the contractor was never mobilised.

This company was registered on June 14, 2009 and has been operational for 14 years, but it has never executed a construction contract, at least not until 2021 when Orelope-Adefulire started paying it.

Since October 27, 2021, Tru 3 has received payments for at least five contracts executed for the government. Awarded by the same entity and paid for by that same entity, all five contracts total N586,257,759, paid between October 2021 and February 2023.

POLICE ARREST AND ABDUCTION

For writing all these stories, Ojukwu went missing on Wednesday, May 1, his numbers switched off and his whereabouts unknown to colleagues, family and friends.

READ ALSO: ‘Fisayo Soyombo Freed After 10 Hours at Force Headquarters

The following day, Thursday, FIJ initially made a missing person report at a police station in the area where Ojukwu was headed. However, on Friday, a private detective hired by FIJ tracked the last active location of his phones to an address in Isheri Olofin, a location FIJ now believes was where the police originally picked him up.

Ojukwu’s family would subsequently get wind of his detention at Panti, where they were made to understand the authorities were accusing him of violating the 2015 Cybercrime Act.

READ ALSO: Force Headquarters Detains ‘Fisayo Soyombo Over Story Exposing High-Level Police Corruption

Very early on Sunday, the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) of the Inspector General of Police relocated Ojukwu to the Nigeria Police Force National Cybercrime Centre (NPF-NCCC) in Abuja, hours after which they then moved him to the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID).

It was not until May 10 that Ojukwu regained freedom. The police had initially given FIJ’s lawyers and negotiators — led by Omoyele Sowore, publisher of SaharaReporters; Jide Oyekunle, chairman Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) FCT Correspondent’s Chapel; and Bukky Shonibare, chairman of FIJ’s Board of Trustees — stringent bail conditions. However, after civil society organisations marched to the Force Headquarters on Thursday May 9 to press for his release, the police started to soft-pedal, leading to his eventual release the next day.

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Published 24th Jun, 2024

By Daniel Ojukwu

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