Ilorin Amusement Park: Lawyers Warn Kwara Govt, APC, Others on Libel Against Saraki’s wife
Lawyers acting for Mrs Toyin Saraki, Wife of former Senate President yesterday August 15 issued a Letter Before Action – Cease And Desist Caution Notice – to Kwara State Government, the state Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and one Titi Anifowoshe, a personal aide to Minister-Nominee Former Senator Gbemisola Rukayat Saraki-Fowora warning them to retract a defamatory story they sponsored on the social media against the former First Lady of the state on the ownership of an Ilorin amusement park.
In a letter addressed to the Kwara State APC Chairman, Bashiru Bolarinwa and the others, the law firm of Austen-Peters & Co, demanded that the state government, the ruling party and the aide of the minister designate should publish a retraction within 24 hours.
The text of the letter reads:
“We write on behalf of Mrs Toyin Saraki (hereinafter referred to as “Our Client”) who has complained about the malicious publication of falsehoods against her person on your Twitter handle known as “@MediaApc”, published at about 12.45 am on Thursday 15 August 2019, and reproduced and published by a Titi Anifowoshe @d_legal_eagle, ostensibly a personal aide to a former Senator, Minister-Nominee Gbemisola Rukayat Saraki Fowora, at 10:57am on 15th August, 2019.
The objectionable tweets respectively contained the following words:
“Kwara State Govt has taken back the Amusement Park from former 1st Lady, Toyin Saraki, wife of former SP Bukola Saraki who took over the property as her personal possession after paying #62M for a land that is worth over #1.2billion using fake company to take over the land.”
“Kwara State Govt has taken back the Amusement Park from former 1st Lady, @toyinsaraki Toyin Saraki, wife of former SP @bukolasaraki who took over the property as hers after paying #62M for a land that is worth over #1.2bn using fake company to take over the land. #TakeItBack
In their warning, Austen-Peters & Co further stated:
“Our Client finds the entirety of the publication mendacious, libellous and criminally defamatory. She believes that the peddling of malicious falsehood in the said publication was done deliberately and maliciously in a bid to bring her to disrepute before right-thinking members of the public, especially because there is no iota of truth in the publication.”
“First, Our Client has never at any time, owned, nor sought to own any portion or the whole, of the Ilorin Metropark, formerly known as Ilorin Amusement Park.
“Secondly, it is pure falsehood to assert that the Kwara State Government has taken back any property from Our Client let alone the Amusement Park, since she never had it.
“Thirdly, there was never a time that Mrs Saraki paid the sum of N62 Million or any other sum for the acquisition of the Amusement Park.
“Lastly, Mrs Saraki has never operated any fake company and it is criminal defamation to allege that she did so and used it to acquire the said Amusement Park. Nothing of such ever took place.
“It is matter of fact for the public record and public knowledge, especially in Ilorin and Kwara State that Our Client, as the First Lady, donated a children’s playground and ancillary landscape gardening, to the Amusement Park in 2004, as a philanthropic gesture, which was enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of children, and their families, freely. Mrs Saraki has not had any contact with the Amusement Park or its then administrators, the Kwara State Ministries of Social Welfare and Works and Housing, ever since the time of her donation in 2004, beyond hosting children’s parties on public and religious holidays, during the time of her then role as First Lady of Kwara State, which concluded on 29th May, 2011”, the law firm stated.
Austen-Peters & Co further demanded the following on behalf of Mrs Saraki:
“An immediate and unequivocal retraction of the publication by APC Kwara State, to disabuse the mind of the public as to whatever misrepresentation the publication might contain. Such rebuttal should enjoy, as a minimum, similar prominence of place as the original publication”
“An immediate undertaking that you shall not cause to be published, any form of falsehood against Mrs Saraki”
“An unreserved apology to Mrs Saraki for the publication of malicious falsehood against her person.”
While giving the recipients twenty-four (24) hours to fulfil the above-mentioned demands in full to properly vindicate Mrs Saraki, the lawyers stated that their client reserved her rights in full to seek appropriate remedies without further recourse to the publishers of the objectionable content.
In a related development, records at the High Court, Ilorin, indicate that the case initiated by the Ilorin Emirates Descendants Progressives Union in 2013, which named Mrs Saraki as 7th Defendant along with the purported sellers and purchasers of the Ilorin Amusement Park, a claim which the Kwara State Government had in 2013 denied, had since been discontinued on 7th May 2019, at the request of the claimants. The court had also struck it out.
The alleged purchaser of the Park, Artee Industries, owner operators of Park & Shop, a supermarket conglomerate headquartered in Lagos, and managed by Dutch Firm SPAR Nigeria/DESPAR, is owned by a billionaire Indian family, according to the CAC Register.
When contacted, a spokesman for Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, stated: that “Her Excellency, Mrs Saraki had waited patiently for over seven years for the erstwhile misguided complainants, Dr Saliu Ajibola Ajia, Dr Sa’ad Omoiya, Alhaji Saleh Duro Garba, of the IEDPU, whom had inexplicably listed Mrs Toyin Saraki as the 7th defendant, in 2013 without notice to her, to realise the defamatory folly of wrongly attaching her name and reputation injuriously, to a matter she had no knowledge of, whatsoever. The addition of her name in that case, without any notice served to her, was, in our opinion, a frivolous and malicious abuse of judicial processes in an already overburdened court system, and thus her legal counsel immediately approached the court independently to strike out her name. The case was subsequently abandoned by the claimants, was ruled by the judge to be struck out for lack of diligent prosecution, only for the same claimants to later themselves discontinue their own case on March 7th 2019, after seven years of tarnishing the name and reputation of an innocent woman”.
The aide continued that: “Mrs Saraki, out of the goodness of her heart, in 2004 supported the rehabilitation, restoration and beautification of the long abandoned park and also donated a children’s playground for public use, enjoyed freely by hundreds and thousands of children in the Ilorin Emirate.
“It is unfortunate that due to politically motivated rumours and abuse of judicial process, innumerable children and citizens of Ilorin Emirate have been denied the peaceful enjoyment of those once green recreational acres for over six years. For the identified sponsors and actors of slander, libel, and defamation to now seek to tarnish the reputation of the Park’s only benefactor in over two decades, in a repulsive attempt to justify their own discontinuance of their slanderous misadventure, in order to re-open the now uninhabitable overgrown and weed infested expanse of land, because they are now in government themselves, is a reprehensibly diabolical action that should be roundly condemned by all right thinking people”, he said.