Former education minister, Obiageli Ezekwesili, has threatened to sue a popular social media influencer, Japhet Omojuwa, for an unauthorised use of her identity by the blogger.
Mr Omojuwa has been alleged alongside some influencers to have collected money to run a campaign in favour of the detained Venezuelan diplomat, Alex Saab.
While Mr Omojuwa denied his participation in the “free Alex Saab” campaign on social media, a report published by Buzzfeed said two persons working in his PR firm, Alpha Reach Limited, were recruited to participate in the campaign.
“I said to this person in confidence that I support the mission and would be happy to retweet a couple articles, but I would not personally be part of it,” he was quoted as saying.
Though Mr Omojuwa’s account was not among the social media influencers suspended between Monday and Tuesday by Twitter Inc., his name has, however, been trending since the publication of the report on Thursday.
Providing another twist to the narrative, Mrs Ezekwesili, on Friday shared a copy of a complaint filed on her behalf by Femi Falana’s law firm, demanding full disclosure and public apology from the influencer over the fraudulent use of her name as one of the directors of the company in question.
In her pre-action notice served on Mr Omojuwa by her lawyers, the former minister said she was shocked when told by a BuzzFeed reporter on March 30, 2021 that she was a director of Alpha Reach.
PREMIUM TIMES checks with NG-Check.com, a platform that provides information on Nigerian companies, has Ms Ezekwesili on the list of Alpha Reach’s directors even though the statement registered that she was oblivious of this until she was contacted by a Buzzfeed reporter.
Marshal Abubakar who signed the pre-action notice sent to Mr Omojuwa by Mr Falana’s law firm, said their investigation revealed that Mrs Ezekwesili was listed as a director when the firm was incorporated in 2012.
He added, “On March 30, 2021, someone from Buzzfeed reached out to our Client, informing her that she was listed as one of the Directors of Alpha Reach Limited alongside Nasir El-Rufai and Japhet Omojuwa, our Client who was certain that she has never been involved in incorporating any company with you and/or Mallam Nasir El-Rufai promptly informed the Buzzfeed official so.
“Moments later, the official forwarded the form CAC7 documents to our client corroborating her claim.
“It is our brief that our Client promptly contacted you but you informed her that the Alpha Reach Company Limited is your company and that she is not involved in it at all.
“Our client also requested for the incorporation documents from you and you promised to make the same available to her within a week but you never did,” an excerpt from the complaint read.
The lawyer said Mr Omojuwa neither sought her consent nor obtained the requisite incorporation documents and information the CAC would require in processing the registration.
Threat to sue
Mrs Ezekwesili demanded, through her lawyers, an apology and full disclosure of the records of Alpha Reach, from Mr Omojuwa
She threatened that failure to meet her demand would leave her with no other option than to sue the blogger.
Her letter read, in part, “On account of the foregoing, we have the firm mandate and instruction of our Client to demand the following:
“That you upon receipt of this correspondence cause to be issued a public statement/apology exonerating our client from the incorporation process and activities of the Alpha Reach Limited.
“That you give a detailed account (to our client via correspondence) the circumstances leading to the incorporation of the Alpha Reach Limited and attach the Certified True Copies of all the incorporation documents submitted at the Corporate Affairs Commission in the course of registering the said company.
“That the correspondence referred to in (ii) above must include details of all the financial dealings of the Company from 2012 to 2017.
“It is our hope that you accede to the foregoing request forthwith otherwise we shall be left with no choice but to employ all legal avenue (s) to seek redress.”
Omojuwa declines to speak
When contacted for comment by PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Omojuwa declined to speak on the subject beyond what has been written on Alpha Reach’s twitter platform.
“It’s now a legal issue so I am not able to speak on this beyond what’s already on @alphareach Twitter,” he said in a text to this reporter.
The company on its twitter page also denied collecting money to run Mr Saab’s campaign, adding that no point was Mrs Ezekwesili a co-owner of the company.
“Alpha Reach, as an organisation, was not involved in the campaign making the rounds. And neither did any Alpha Reach staff pay anyone on behalf of Alpha Reach. The speculation that the company was involved in the campaign is therefore not true. We are also aware that Twitter cleared accounts associated with the said campaign. It is pertinent to note that none of those accounts had any link or affiliation with our company.
“On another note, Alpha Reach wishes to state that at no time was Dr. Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili a part-owner of Alpha Reach, and she is not a member of the Alpha Reach board. This clarification is necessary because of insinuations being made that she is/was a co-owner of Alpha Reach. Thank you,” it read.
Mr Saab was arrested on June 12, 2020 during a stopover at Amilcar Cabral International Airport on the Island of Sal by the Cape Verdean government. He was traveling to Venezuela from Iran.
His arrest by the Cape Verdean government was hinged on an international arrest warrant purportedly issued by Interpol at the request of the United States.
The Venezuelan authorities have continued to call for Mr Saab’s unconditional release, adding that he had diplomatic immunity at the time he was arrested.
The ECOWAS Court had in its December 20, 2020 ruling ordered the Republic of Cape Verde to place Mr Saab under permanent home detention in good conditions, including access to medical treatment and visits.
The court also ordered that the applicant should not be extradited pending the decision of the court on the substantive suit.
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