Vanguard Newspapers has apologised to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo over the story alleging that the Federal Inland Revenue Service FIRS gave him N90billion for the 2019 election.
In a statement on its website, the editor of the paper wrote:
“On our website publication of Monday, September 23, 2019, we published a story titled “N 90 Bn FIRS Election Fund: Osinbajo’s problem, not 2023 politics.”
“We have since discovered that the story lacks factual substance and we hereby retract it in its entirety.
“We tender our profound apology to Professor Yemi Osinbajo SAN, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on whom the story touches directly, the All Progressives Congress, A.P.C. and the FIRS for any inconvenience or embarrassment the publication has occasioned them.
” We hold Professor Osinbajo, S.A.N. in the highest esteem.”
However, as at 21.09 on Wednesday, the story was still on the newspaper’s website.
The newspaper in the report reprinted a claim by Timi Frank, a political associate of former vice-President Atiku Abubakar, that Osinbajo was facing some political setbacks because he failed to give an account of the alleged N90 billion collected to prosecute the 2019 election.
Osinbajo through his lawyer, Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria wrote the newspaper on Tuesday demanding an apology and a retraction.
Read the full letter below:
September 24, 2019
Mr. Eze Anaba,
Re: N90 bn FIRS election fund, Osinbajo’s problem, not 2023 politics-Frank
We are solicitors to Professor Yemi Osinbanjo SAN, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (hereinafter referred to as “our client”) on whose behalf and instructions we write this letter.
Our client’s attention has been drawn to your highly libelous story entitled “N90 bn FIRS election fund, Osinbanjo’s problem, not 2023 politics-Frank” recklessly published in the Vanguard newspaper edition of September 23, 2019.
In the story credited to one Comrade Timi Frank, your newspaper informed your large readership that our client’s travail “has nothing to do with 2023 but alleged mismanagement of about N90 Billion Naira (sic) released by the Federal Inland Revenue Inland Service (FIRS) to prosecute the last general elections in favour of the APC”.
The false contextual background and specific untrue and defamatory statement include the following:
“The presidency discovered how Osinbajo allegedly mismanaged N90billion from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
When confronted by the presidency, he confirmed to General Buhari that he indeed allegedly took N90billion from FIRS but it was used for the 2019 presidential election campaign in strategic states of the South-west.
Gen Buhari asked for a breakdown of how the money was spent and he said he gave N11 billion to Lagos state APC leader but when the said national leader and one former APC chairman were invited for an explanation, it was confirmed that Osinbajo gave only N5billion and not N11billion to Lagos state.
‘The cabal is asking to know how come they beat PDP in the South-west with less than 60,000 votes if the money was actually spent in the strategic states of the South-west as allegedly claimed.’
The activist insisted that if the information is true, Osinbajo must resign his position as Vice President, adding that such is akin to the characteristics of ‘yahoo boys.”
It is clear that the entire publication was a vicious, wicked and reckless ploy to impugn the reputation of our client and lower him in the estimation of right-thinking members of the public. Without any scintilla of evidence you deliberately gave the dubious impression that our client colluded with the Federal Inland Revenue Service to divert public funds to the tune of N90 billion to prosecute the 2019 general elections in the Southwest region.
In view of the foregoing we have our client’s firm instructions to request for the immediate retraction of the offensive and derogatory publication coupled with apology prominently published in your newspaper.
Take notice that if we do not receive your formal retraction and apology within 24 hours of the receipt of this letter, we shall proceed with our client’s instructions to seek legal remedies including aggravated damages in the appropriate High Court.
FEMI FALANA, SAN