Ibrahim Lamorde, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday sued The Sun Publishing Limited, publishers of The Sun Newspaper, for one billion Naira for a story in its edition of October 8 entitled” “N1TRN LOOTED FUNDS LAMORDE, EFCC BOSS, IN SOUP.”
In the suit, filed on his behalf at the Federal High Court in Abuja by Festus Keyamo chambers, Mr. Lamorde described the story as false and malicious, and that it portrays him as a fraudulent and corrupt civil servant who engages in diversion of monies belonging to the government; as a bad and corrupt leader; and as a hypocrite.
In addition to the claim for monetary damages, the EFCC boss is also asking for a retraction and an unreserved apology by the defendants, a perpetual injunction restraining them and their agents from similar further publication against him, and any other orders the court may deem appropriate.
IN THE HIGH COURT OF THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY
IN THE ABUJA JUDICIAL DIVISION
HOLDEN AT ABUJA
IBRAHIM LAMORDE ……… PLAINTIFF
THE SUN PUBLISHING LIMITED ……… DEFENDANT
(Publishers of the Daily Sun)
STATEMENT OF CLAIM
1. The Plaintiff is a Commissioner of Police and currently the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The Plaintiff has had a distinguished career having joined the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as the pioneer Director of Operations in 2003 and by dint of hard work and integrity rose to be the Chairman of the anti-graft agency.
2. The Defendant is the Proprietor and Publisher of a popular Newspaper called Daily Sun which enjoys wide circulation and readership in Nigeria and abroad.
3. The Plaintiff avers that as a function of his position, he is at the forefront of the fight against corruption in Nigeria and he has successfully investigated and prosecuted several corrupt individuals in Nigeria.
4. The Plaintiff further avers that as a result of his exceptional career, he has received several awards and commendations from organizations across the world and is recognized by international organizations as a leading light on Nigeria’s fight against corruption.
5. The Plaintiff further avers that in its Daily Sun Newspaper of Thursday, 8th October, 2015, the Defendant falsely and maliciously caused to be printed and published the following words of and concerning the Plaintiff:
“N1TRN LOOTED FUNDS LAMORDE, EFCC BOSS, IN SOUP”
6. The Plaintiff further avers that at page 6 of its Daily Sun Newspaper of Thursday, 8th October, 2015, the Defendant falsely and maliciously caused to be printed and published the following words of and concerning the Plaintiff as an elaboration of the above stated headline:
“CHAIRMAN of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Lamorde, is presently being investigated over allegations of diversion of over N1 trillion from the sale of confiscated properties belonging to convicted public officials including former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyesiegha and former Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, among many others.
Daily Sun gathered that the Presidency's searchlight had actually been on the EFCC following complaints and reports that EFCC operatives were notoriously letting some financial crimes suspects off the hook rather than prosecute them.
The decision to launch a full-scale investigation, however, started after one George Uboh appeared before the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions on August 23 where he alleged that Lamorde dipped his hands into the said funds.
It was gathered that after his appearance at the Senate, the Presidency picked interest in the matter and directed the Office of the National Special Adviser (NSA) to commence investigations into the allegations.
A National Assembly source said thereafter, the NSA, Major General Babagana Monguno (retd) reportedly swung into action.
"Series of complaints against Lamorde is his perceived slack supervision of his operatives. There have been series of allegations that operatives collect bribe from suspects and let them off the hook rather than investigate allegations thoroughly.
"This investigation is not a witch-hunt...It is meant to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they are no mere allegations but, they are weighty enough to warrant presidential scrutiny."
In his petition to the Senate, Uboh said the fraud allegedly perpetrated by Larmode dated back to his days as the Director of Operations of the EFCC between 2003 and 2007, as well as an acting Chairman of the commission between June 2007 and May 2008, when the then chairman of the anti-graft agency, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, was away for a course at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos.
Uboh, Chief Executive Officer of Panic Alert Security Systems, a security firm, in his petition dated July 31 accused Lamorde of some specific instances of under-remittance and non-disclosure of proceeds of corruption recovered from criminal suspects, including Balogun and Alamieyeseigha.
He assured the Senate that he would produce "overwhelming evidence" to back his claims against Lamorde.
Uboh also alleged that the EFCC had not accounted for "offshore recoveries" and that "over hall of the assets seized from suspects are not reflected in EFCC exhibit records."
The petitioner equally accused Lamorde of conspiring with some EFCC officers and external auditors ''to operate and conceal a recovery account in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and excluded the balances from your audited financial statements between 2005 and 2011."
"Lamorde continues to conceal the details of the unsold properties forfeited by both Tafa Balogun and DSP Alamieyeseigha despite receiving rent revenues from some estate agents on the said properties," he further alleged.”
7. The said words in their natural and ordinary meaning (by direct reference and innuendos) meant and were understood to mean that:
(a) The Plaintiff is a fraudulent and corrupt civil servant who engages in diversion of monies belonging to the government.
(b) The Plaintiff is a bad and corrupt leader who encourages his Operatives to collect bribes from suspects.
(c) The Plaintiff is a hypocrite whose fraudulent activities date back to 2003 when he was Director of Operations of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
8. The Plaintiff avers that the libelous publication by the Defendant was widely circulated and read by millions of people in the world and particularly in Nigeria where the Plaintiff has several associates, friends, family and professional colleagues.
9. The Plaintiff avers that by reason of the publication of the words set out in paragraphs 5 and 6 above and their import set out in paragraph 7, the Plaintiff has been seriously injured in his character, credit, reputation and integrity and had been brought to public scandal, odium and contempt and has suffered damage.
10. The Plaintiff further avers that immediately after the publication was released, he received numerous telephone calls from professional colleagues, international donor agencies, multinational organisations, relations, friends and religious leaders expressing their utmost disgust and contempt at the Plaintiff’s alleged disgraceful, unpatriotic and sacrilegious conducts and questioned the integrity of the Plaintiff.
11. The Plaintiff avers that the spurious allegations made by the Defendant are untrue and actuated by malice with intent to malign and undermine the Plaintiff’s reputation.
PARTICULARS OF MALICE
(a) The allegations in the publication are false and untrue.
(b) The Defendants did not conduct any investigation into the truth of the allegations before publishing them.
(c) The Defendant did not offer the Plaintiff any opportunity to respond to the allegations before publishing them.
(d) By publishing the allegations in a sensational screaming headline, the Defendant evinced the intention to malign the Plaintiff and drag his reputation in the mud.
12. The Plaintiff avers that he has suffered tremendous damage to his reputation and if the Defendant is not restrained, it will further publish injurious articles against the Plaintiff.
WHEREFORE, the Plaintiff claims against the Defendant as follows:
1. The sum of N1,000,000,000.00 (One Billion Naira) only being damages for the words published of and concerning the Plaintiff which are libelous by direct reference and innuendo contained at the front page and page 6 of the Daily Sun of 8th October, 2015 titled ‘N1TRN LOOTED FUNDS: LAMORDE, EFCC BOSS, IN SOUP’ and further elaborated upon at page 6 of the said publication.
2. A retraction and an unreserved apology by the Defendants for the words published of and concerning the Plaintiff which are libelous and contained at the front page and page 6 of the Daily Sun of 8th October, 2015 titled ‘N1TRN LOOTED FUNDS: LAMORDE, EFCC BOSS, IN SOUP’ and further elaborated upon at page 6 of the said publication and to be published with the same bold print and on the same front page as the headline complained of.
3. AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the Defendant whether by itself, its agents, privies or servants from further publishing or causing to be published any libelous, injurious or defamatory words against the Plaintiff.
4. FOR SUCH FURTHER ORDER OR OTHER ORDERS as this Honourable court may deem fit to make in the circumstances of this case.
Dated 12th day of October, 2015.
FESTUS KEYAMO, ESQ.,
FESTUS UKPE, ESQ.,
FESTUS KEYAMO CHAMBERS