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30.03.2024 Featured Stage Now Set for IBD Dende’s Legal Battle With FIJ

Published 30th Mar, 2024

By Joseph Adeiye

All is now set for an epic legal battle between Ibrahim Egungbohun Dende, the notorious smuggler and gunrunner better known as IBD Dende, and the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ).

On Thursday, IBD Dende’s lawyers Bola Aidi (SAN) & Co. emailed a pre-action letter to ‘Fisayo Soyombo, FIJ’s founder, demanding N500 million in damages and a retraction of his Undercover as a Smuggler investigation, among other things.

FIJ’s legal representatives Slingstone Law, led by Abimbola Ojenike, knocked back the letter within three hours of receiving it, writing Bola Aidi with a clear message: see you in court!

Bola Aidi had deemed Soyombo’s Undercover as a Smuggler documentary, published on FIJ, was libelous. He had also condemned the follow-up tweets relating to his client’s involvement in smuggling while collaborating with the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) officials.

READ MORE: VIDEO: IBD Dende Threatens to Kill Customs Officer for Seizing His Smuggled Goods

“Though your allegation of influencing the appointment of the Comptroller General is as spurious as it can be, your comparison of our client “as a robbery gang leader” and the leader of a faceless inumidun smuggling squad however speaks volume of your vicious, orchestrated, calumnious, malicious and most libelous campaign against our Client even when you know that your allegations are baseless and factually untrue,” read the letter.

“While it is the believe[sic] of our client that you and your cohorts are obviously being sponsored by detractors on this mission for filthy lucre, we are however happy to inform you that you shall surely bear the consequences of your action under the law as the combined effect of your libel on our client on both Arise Television and your X handle(formerly Twitter) is the decimation of the image and livelihood of our client coupled with the unwarranted invasion of his private life.

READ MORE: IBD Dende Sends IGP After FIJ

“Putting the matter mildly, you have by your action not only traumatized Alhaji Ibrahim Dende Egungbohun, but you have equally exposed the life and liberty of our client to ultimate[sic] danger of false arrest nationally and internationally and or of mob action.

“It is therefore the instructions of our client to demand as follows;

“(a) A retraction of your offensive documentary on Arise Television to be done via Arise Television for the next 30 days.

“(b) A retraction of your libelous publications on X via three National Newspapers to be published daily for the next 30 days.

“(c) In addition to A and B, an apology for the monumental damage done to the image of our client and for paralyzing his business and causing him to be ostracized as a direct consequence of your criminal stigmatization of guns running and drugs smuggling to be published on your X account and on the account of your foundation for investigative journalism.

“(d) Payment of the sum of N500,000,000.00 (Five Hundred Million Naira) only as damages for the monumental defamation of character published against our client.”

Responding, Slingstone LP’s Abimbola Ojenike rejected all of Aidi’s claims and expressed readiness to accept all originating court processes.

“We acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated 15th March, 2024, on behalf of our Clients, Foundation for Investigative Journalism and Social Justice (FIJ) and Mr. ‘Fisayo Soyombo,” Slingstone LP said in its response.

“Our Clients affirm the truth of their publication referenced in your pre-action letter and categorically deny any liability for libel and damages regarding the statements made concerning Mr. Ibrahim Dende Egungbohun (a.k.a IBD Dende). The publication accurately portrays Mr. IBD Dende’s self-avowed criminal involvement in smuggling and other related criminalities that undermine national security and the local economy.

READ ALSO: Police Begin Persecution of FIJ for ‘Cybercrime’, Summon BoT Chair to Abuja

“FIJ’s ethical commitment is to disseminate information on matters of public interest. FIJ exercised reasonable care in the process of obtaining and verifying the facts contained in this investigation undertaken over a period spanning almost two years. The comments in the publication are fair, honestly made, and predicated upon facts which are themselves true.

“Mr. IBD Dende’s overt affinity with power despite his notorious involvement in smuggling underscores a significant public interest issue that outweighs Mr. IBD Dende’s self-vaunted reputation which FIJ firmly disputes. The overriding question of complicity by law enforcement agencies and the consequential risks to public safety, the economy and the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are critical issues which exemplify why the allegations in the investigative report should be keenly interrogated and judicially determined. 

“Accordingly, FIJ welcomes the opportunity to have a day in Court as assured in your letter.

Soyombo and FIJ affirm the truth of all claims about Dende in the Undercover as a Smuggler investigative reports across platforms.

FIJ welcomes the opportunity to have a day in Court as assured in the March 15 letter from Bola Aidi (SAN) & Co.

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Published 30th Mar, 2024

By Joseph Adeiye

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