A few days ago, Mr. Liborous Oshoma, a lawyer made and published a video that falsely and libelously portrayed Mr Umana Okon Umana, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA), as the founder/owner of the defunct Umanah Umanah Wonder Bank, a Ponzi scheme that operated out of Port Harcourt, Rivers State in the 1980s.
Once Mr. Umana Okon Umana’s attention was drawn to the video which wrongly used his photographs rather than the photograph of Mr. Umanah Ekaette Umanah, the operator of the Ponzi scheme, the OGFZA Managing Director directed his lawyer and media assistant to write to Mr. Oshoma and inform him that his publication was both false and libelous.
Mr. Oshoma was contacted and made to understand that Umanah Ekaette Umanah, the founder of the defunct wonder bank, was a different person and not in any way related to, nor should he be confused with, Mr. Umana Okon Umana, who is the current Chief Executive Officer of OGFZA, a position he was appointed to by President Muhammadu Buhari after an unbroken sterling career in the Akwa Ibom State public service that saw him rise through the ranks to the positions of Director of Budget and Permanent Secretary, Budget Office, from where he retired on appointment as Commissioner for Finance. He also served as Secretary to the Government of Akwa Ibom State.
Mr. Umana Okon Umana, who was governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State during the 2015 election, is different from Umanah Ekaette Umanah, founder of the defunct wonder bank, not only in name but also in local government of origin and Senatorial District. The founder of the defunct wonder bank is from Onna Local Government Area, which is in Eket Senatorial District, while Mr. Umana, the Chief Executive Officer of OGFZA, is from Nsit Ubium Local Government Area, which is in Uyo Senatorial District. There
is no basis for confusing one with the other, if anyone pays attention to details.
After receiving the guidance from Umana’s aides, Mr. Oshoma issued an immediate public retraction of the false publication with unreserved apology (click on this link, to read the apologyletter).
We need to stress, as it’s already made apparent in paragraph one above, that Mr. Oshoma created the problem by wrongfully using the photographs of Mr. Umana Okon Umana as founder of the wonder bank. However, once he was made to realise the error, and before the retraction and unreserved apology referenced above, he immediately made a new video with the correct picture of the founder of the defunct wonder bank and circulated it. But people who had seen the first video that sported the wrong photographs, continued to circulate it.
We believe that Mr. Liborous Oshoma made a mistake, but this unfortunate incident instructs us on the dangers of this so-called era of citizen journalism, enabled by social media, which bypasses the critical gatekeeping function of a trained editor with the responsibility to check and double check for errors, taste, and public safety before any material is allowed into a publication or broadcast bulletin. This anomalous situation of anything goes has brought untold harm to innocent people as in the instant case.
In the absence of an adequate regulatory environment for the social media sector, we urge the highest level of circumspection by those who create and publish content within this irregular media space to avoid wreaking harm on the reputation of innocent people and institutions.
Special Assistant on Media to Mr Umana Okon Umana