Emmanuel Ogebe, a U.S.-based Nigerian lawyer and social welfare campaigner, has slammed a $5 million libel lawsuit against the Nigerian government, court filings showed.
Mr. Ogebe, who took 10 rescued Chibok girls to study in the United States in 2014, filed the lawsuit at the Federal High Court of Abuja on January 27 against the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan.
Mr. Ogebe also joined the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation in the suit.
Mr. Ogebe said Ms. Alhassan, in a press briefing in September 2016, accused him of exploiting his position as the guardian of rescued Chibok girls in the U.S. to extort money from donors.
“We got the information that the girls were being used as tools for making money – not prostitution – but in the sense that they will be taken here and there where they go and relay their experiences during the insurgency, especially the invasion of Chibok town by Boko Haram and how they were abducted.
“After that, people used them to ask for donations; by so doing they make money out of it. So the girls became fed up; and started complaining that they were taken to U.S. on an arrangement that they were going to send them to school and that they were going to pay for their school. But unfortunately they said they were not allowed to remain in school,” Ms. Alhassan told reporters in Maiduguri on September 9, 2016.
Ms. Alhassan made the statement a few months after Nigerian government sacked Mr. Ogebe as the guardian of the girls and took them away from him.
In his lawsuit, Mr. Ogebe said the government led a “malicious campaign to tarnish his image” and demanded that apologies be published in major newspapers in addition to the $5 million compensation.
Mr. Ogebe said he deserved praise for the kindness he showed towards the girls who could barely speak English before he took them to the U.S. for learning rather than scorn.
Salisu Isah, the spokesman for Attorney-General Abubakar Malami, told PREMIUM TIMES his principal will respond to the lawsuit when he returned from a trip abroad.
“He is not in the country for now,” Mr. Isah said. “I’ll get back to you with his response to the libel claims as soon as he gets back.”
Hassan Dodo, spokesperson for the Ministry of Women Affairs, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday afternoon.