Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki has refuted claims by the Coalition for Press Freedom and Whistleblower Protection (CPFWP), a group of media and civil society organisations, which accused him of using violence and impunity against Sahara Reporters.
In a joint statement signed by 15 of its members, TheCable inclusive, the coalition accused Saraki of abusing the judicial process through the freezing of the bank accounts of Sahara Reporters Media Foundation — a completely different legal entity from Sahara Reporters against whom Saraki secured a N4 billion judgement from a Kwara State high court in a defamation suit.
In his response signed by his spokesman, yesterday, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki said he had more evidence to show that the two entities operated as one in various transactions.
He also denied stalling the judicial process, blaming Sahara Reporters instead for the delay.
Parts of the statement reads: “We are concerned about a number of erroneous assertions in the statement, to the effect that a media organisation, Sahara Reporters, is subject to intimidation at the behest of the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki.
“The CPFWP suggests that the alleged intimidation is purportedly on account of a libel case against Sahara Reporters, for which there is an award by the High Court of damages of N4 billion in favour of the Senate President. The statement is misleading, and we are therefore constrained to set the record straight.”
Saraki further added that Sahara Reporters and the Sahara Reporters Media Foundation are one and the same.
“It is a known fact that advert payments for Sahara Reporters have on occasion been paid into the bank accounts of the Foundation on the instructions of the publisher, Omoyele Sowore. We have records that show that Sowore has used the two accounts interchangeably over time, particularly for nefarious purposes. We urge the Coalition to ascertain the true position from Sowore, even as we stand ready to disprove any denials on his part with evidence,” he stated.
The statement stated that while Sahara Reporters and Sowore were prosecuting their vicious ‘all is fair in war’ agenda against the person of the Senate President, Dr. Saraki chose to put his trust in the rule of law, and sought redress in the court.
It added that Saraki has never been an advocate or believer in extra-judicial means, as is the unfortunate suggestion of the CPFWP statement. On the contrary, his recourse was to the law because he has full confidence in the legal process.
“Now, we ask the Coalition, what has Dr. Saraki done wrong in this entire process? How does going to the law on his part amount to wrongdoing by the Coalition’s reckoning? If anything, he is the one who has been subject to relentless intimidation and persecution by Sahara Reporters and Mr. Sowore.
“To reiterate, if there is any delay in this particular case, it was caused by Sahara Reporters and its lawyers. If they were not avoiding service, they were busy raising technicalities or requesting unnecessary adjournments. We call on signatories to study the records of the court proceedings, to properly acquaint themselves with the facts.”