Femi Falana, senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has threatened to sue a newspaper over its report that he allegedly received laundered money from Ibrahim Magu, the suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Magu is facing interrogation by a presidential panel following allegations of corruption against him.
In the newspaper report, Falana was alleged to have received N28 million from a bureau-de-change which reportedly helped Magu launder money.
In a letter dated July 12 by Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, Falana’s lawyer, the newspaper was asked to admit to wrongdoing or be ready to face a lawsuit.
“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),” the letter read.
“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.”
Olumide-Fusika said his client does not deny that he is a public advocate of the EFCC and all the agencies set up to rescue the country from corruption.
He said Falana has been a supporter of the EFCC since the inception of the agency under Nuhu Ribadu, its first chairman.
“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,” the letter read.
“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.” (The Cable)