An Abuja-based media consultant and former newspaper editor, Simon Imobo-Tswam, has sued Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, for libel, mischief and the unauthorized use of his name, phone number and platform for image-laundering.
In a lawsuit filed at a High Court in the Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Imobo-Tswam seeks N1 billion from the minister as “general and compensatory damages.” According to the plaintiff, Ms. Alison-Madueke and her media agents illegally used his name, his mobile telephone number and the official letterhead of his group, Network of Progressive Activists (NPA), to launch a media attack against former President Olusegun Obasanjo. In addition, according to the plaintiff, the minister and her hirelings exploited his name and group in defending the minister’s alleged questionable spending of N10 billion to charter jets.
Apart from the Petroleum Minister, other defendants are Michael Mukwuzi, Timothy Ademola, ThisDay newspapers, Tokunbo Adedoja, Vanguard newspapers, Chioma Gabriel, and Anozie Egole.
One of the defendants, Mr. Mukwuzi, works with the media department at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) while another, Mr. Ademola, is the executive assistant to the special assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on youth and student matters, as well as the national coordinator of NPA.
In addition to urging Justice M.M. Kolo to award N1 billion, the plaintiff, who is represented by Chris Alashi, also wants the court to order the defendants pay interest of 18% on the judgment award.
Mr. Imobo-Tswam also wants the defendants to apologize to him, with the apology published in the Vanguard and ThisDay.
The lawsuit claims that the defendants “maliciously, malevolently, mischievously and wickedly ascribed/attributed to the plaintiff” opinions that “embarrassed, injured and devastatingly damaged the Plaintiff, and cast him in bad light before well-meaning members of the public and most particularly patriotic Nigerians.”
The lawsuit accuses the minister and her agents of using the plaintiff’s name, without his authorization, as the author of an advertorial that attacked Mr. Obasanjo following a political feud between the former president and President Jonathan. According to the plaintiff, he had rejected an offer to speak against Mr. Obasanjo on a program at AIT TV as well as to represent himself as the author of an anti-Obasanjo piece.
Mr. Imobo-Tswam alleges that, despite his refusal to attack Mr. Obasanjo, Mr. Mukwuzi and Mr. Ademola affixed his name as the author of a scurrilous piece that was published in several Nigerian newspapers.
The plaintiff also asserts that he was approached again to use his name and platform to defend Ms. Alison-Madueke after the minister was accused of recklessly squandering more than N10 billion of public funds on
The lawsuit stated that, despite the plaintiff’s refusal to lend his name or that of his platform to the defense of the minister, the defendants went ahead to write an advertorial titled “The Unveiling of Operation Destroy Diezani,” giving the misleading impression that he had authored it. The document was subsequently published in several Nigerian newspapers on March 26, 2014. The publication used the plaintiff’s platform’s letterhead, e-mail address and personal phone number.
The lawsuit asserts that Mr. Imobo-Tswam has suffered great harm since the action by the minister and her alleged, adding that family members,
colleagues as well as church-members, had accused him of championing corruption and economic sabotage as well as being a paid agent of the Presidency and Minister of Petroleum.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the lawsuit.