THISDAY

David­son Iriekpen

- Nigeria News · Crime · Politics · Lagos State · Lagos · Lagos · Nigeria · Lagos State House of Assembly · John Jacobs

hese are not in­ter­est­ing times for the Speaker of the La­gos State House of Assem­bly, Hon. Mu­dashiru Obasa. Lately, just like most po­lit­i­cally ex­posed per­sons, he has been in the news for the wrong rea­sons. His ac­cusers are al­leg­ing cor­rup­tion against him.

For in­stance, Obasa found him­self in the mid­dle of al­le­ga­tions by an on­line medium which claimed that he used a com­pany known as De Kin­grun Mul­ti­pur­pose Nige­ria Limited to se­cure con­tracts from the assem­bly and min­istries for him­self to laun­der pub­lic funds. In a story ti­tled: Ex­posed: Speaker of La­gos Assem­bly, Obasa, Awards Con­tracts to self through Com­pany Reg­is­tered in son’s name.’ the on­line medium added that the speaker used the names of his fa­ther, wife and chil­dren to regis­ter the com­pany. It fur­ther al­leged that he owns sev­eral other com­pa­nies, which he used to re­ceive con­tracts from the assem­bly.

But un­daunted, the speaker, a lawyer, has dared his ac­cusers to prove the al­le­ga­tions or face a law­suit. De­scrib­ing them as de­trac­tors, he said he is de­ter­mined to pro­tect his hard-earned rep­u­ta­tion built right from his days as a coun­cil­lor from 1999 to 2003 when he first got elected into the assem­bly.

The law­maker, who has been in the House since 2003 as part of the fifth, sixth and seventh assem­blies, feels that his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer is un­blem­ished and un­ques­tion­able. Though he did not deny own­ing the com­pany, but chal­lenged the medium to pub­lish the con­tract date, lo­ca­tion, amount and agree­ment.

“Let me also join you to em­pha­sise that what was pub­lished has noth­ing to do with me. The fact re­mains that De Kin­grun has no re­la­tion­ship with the La­gos State House of Assem­bly. At least, they have al­leged and they must be able to prove by giv­ing out the name of such con­tracts, the amount, the lo­ca­tion, the date and the con­trac­tual agree­ment.”

Even his lawyer, Lawal Pe­dro (SAN), has taken up the bat­tle on his be­half. He has not only dared the ac­cusers to prove and sub­stan­ti­ate the al­le­ga­tions, de­manded a re­trac­tion for face a law­suit.

Pe­dro, in a de­mand let­ter to the on­line medium’s pub­lisher, said the un­sub­stan­ti­ated claims re­peated in the re­ports con­firmed Obasa’s sus­pi­cion “that you and your or­gan­i­sa­tion for rea­sons best known to you are pre­oc­cu­pied with per­sonal re­sent­ment and ha­tred nei­ther war­ranted, nec­es­sary, proper nor jus­ti­fied against him”.

The SAN, in the April 30 let­ter, added: “We were able to con­firm that the House of Assem­bly has never at any time en­gaged or awarded any con­tract to any of the listed com­pa­nies in the pub­li­ca­tion.

“There­fore, we find the pub­li­ca­tion ut­terly ab­surd, abu­sive, ma­li­cious and amount to ir­re­spon­si­ble jour­nal­ism to de­lib­er­ately tar­nish the im­age of the Hon­ourable Speaker of the La­gos State House of Assem­bly (our client).

“Our client has been greatly in­jured in his credit, char­ac­ter and rep­u­ta­tion and his of­fice and has been brought to un­war­ranted ha­tred, ridicule, pub­lic scan­dal, odium and con­tempt be­fore his friends, as­so­ciates, Con­stituents, the State, the coun­try and the world as a whole.

“No re­spon­si­ble me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tion will hide un­der me­dia free­dom or free­dom of ex­pres­sion to de­lib­er­ately ped­dle false and ma­li­cious state­ment to in­jure any cit­i­zen’s rep­u­ta­tion and credit.

“In the cir­cum­stance, it is our client’s in­struc­tion and we hereby de­mand of you, within seven days of re­ceipt of this let­ter a re­trac­tion of the said false, ma­li­cious and defam­a­tory pub­li­ca­tion against our client through your on­line pub­li­ca­tion, so­cial me­dia plat­forms and three na­tional news­pa­pers cir­cu­lat­ing in Nige­ria. You are also to ten­der a writ­ten un­re­served apol­ogy to our client for the pub­li­ca­tion.

“Take no­tice that, if you fail, refuse or ne­glect to meet our client’s hum­ble re­quest within the stip­u­lated num­ber of days, we have his fur­ther in­struc­tion to com­mence le­gal ac­tion against you and your or­gan­i­sa­tion for the ma­li­cious defam­a­tory pub­li­ca­tion and to claim N1­bil­lion dam­ages,” Pe­dro wrote.

Even a lawyer, John Ja­cobs-Adeniyi, has urged Obasa and the assem­bly to pur­sue the mat­ter to the log­i­cal con­clu­sion if the medium does not re­tract or sub­stan­ti­ate the re­ports.

He said: “Jour­nal­ism should be prac­tised re­spon­si­bly. The re­port by an on­line medium ma­lign­ing the per­son of Speaker Obasa is an abuse of the plat­form, with those be­hind it out only to achieve self­ish rather than a pub­lic good.

“How can a per­son high up in a po­si­tion of Speaker give such a huge amount as N50mil­lion to thugs to burn down an on­line news re­port­ing plat­form’s of­fice, with­out the medium pro­vid­ing ev­i­dence to back it up? Is money now so cheap to come by in the coun­try?

“Could it be that such an in­cred­u­lous ac­cu­sa­tion was spon­sored? Why would a re­spon­si­ble plat­form risk the pub­li­ca­tion of such spu­ri­ous ac­cu­sa­tions? The truth is that the speaker should pur­sue this black­mail to its log­i­cal le­gal con­clu­sion,” he con­cluded.

Per­haps, the turn­ing point of the al­le­ga­tions was when Obasa’s col­leagues in the assem­bly rose in his strong de­fence over what they termed “false”, “ma­li­cious” and “un­sub­stan­ti­ated” re­ports against him by the no­to­ri­ous on­line medium. They chal­lenged the on­line medium to pro­vide ev­i­dence of the al­le­ga­tions, even as they tasked the speaker, through his lawyer, not re­lent in chal­leng­ing the is­sue in court.

Dur­ing ple­nary penul­ti­mate Mon­day, the assem­bly ve­he­mently de­nied that it spends N17 mil­lion monthly to main­tain Obasa’s res­i­dence and guest house. The Clerk of the assem­bly, Mr. Azeez Sanni, said the re­port was aimed at por­tray­ing them in a bad light.

He clar­i­fied that the sum cov­ers var­i­ous ex­pen­di­ture for the main­te­nance of the Of­fice of the Chief of Staff, spe­cial ad­vis­ers, of­fice of the Chief Press Sec­re­tary, Spe­cial As­sis­tant (Pro­to­col), Spe­cial As­sis­tant (Re­search and Devel­op­ment), Spe­cial As­sis­tant (Women Af­fairs), and 15 Spe­cial As­sis­tants en­gaged to at­tend to the grow­ing de­mands and spe­cial­i­ties of the assem­bly.

Sanni added: As the Clerk of the House and Head of Ad­min­is­tra­tion, I want to say cat­e­gor­i­cally to the pub­lic that this House has not had any busi­ness deal­ings with the men­tioned com­pa­nies.

“I must also state that these ex­pen­di­tures have been in ex­is­tence prior the emer­gence of Speaker Obasa. It is dated back to as far as 2012 when it was N27 mil­lion monthly and I have the doc­u­ment here to show that the

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