Defamation: Betta Edu Threatens $50m Suit Against BBC  

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The minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation of Nigeria, Dr Betta Edu, has demanded that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) pull down an article titled: “Betta Edu Probe: Nigeria Recover $24m in Poverty Minister Investigation- EFCC”  from its website, immediately.

 

Should BBC fail and/or neglect to comply with the above demands, Edu has vowed to initiate swift legal action(s) before the appropriate Courts to obtain redress for the alleged injurious falsehood peddled in the BBC’s article, and to seek punitive and exemplary damages for $50 million against the BBC for the damage and injury suffered by her.

 

Recall that BBC recently published an article on its website: www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-Africa (Last accessed on 9th April 2024 at 17:40 GMT) titled: “Betta Edu Probe: Nigeria Recover $ 24 m in Poverty Minister Investigation- EFCC” with the sub-heading “Nigeria Has Recovered 30bn Naira ($24m; £19m) as Part of an Ongoing Corruption probe Into a Suspended Minister, the Financial Watchdog Says”.

 

Edu, expresses her concern, in a letter, written by Ojukwu Chikaosolu and CO Law Firm, titled: “Request for immediate Retraction of Defamatory Article Published on BBC Website against Dr Betta Edu,” and signed by the principal partner, Chikaosolu Ojukwu (SAN), averred that the aforesaid article, which presents information purporting to relate to an ongoing corruption probe into the activities of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation in Nigeria, is replete with innuendoes and insinuations which suggest that N30 billion has been recovered in the course of the ongoing investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from her and that the 50 bank accounts connected with the recovered sums are linked to her.

 

“Furthermore, your article proceeds to cast aspersion on our client by referencing her earlier suspension (to allow for unfettered investigations) in the following terms: Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation Minister Betta Edu was initially suspended in January over the alleged diversion of $640,000 of public money into a personal bank account.

 

“First and foremost, the language used in describing our client’s purported involvement in the alleged corruption case suggests guilt without allowing for the presumption of innocence, which is fundamental in any fair and unbiased reporting. The reckless manner in which the article was crafted, without providing our client with the opportunity to respond to the allegations before its wide publication, is a clear breach of journalistic fairness and due process and demonstrates a complete disregard for journalistic integrity and professionalism. 

 

“The headline, content, and tone of the article imply guilt on the part of our client, without any concrete evidence to substantiate such claims. This is a blatant attempt to tarnish our client’s reputation and undermine her credibility which she has earned throughout her distinguished career in both private and public life,” the letter stated.

 

The letter reiterated that Edu has neither been indicted nor found culpable of any act of financial impropriety about her stewardship of the Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation Ministry in Nigeria, while emphasizing that neither N30 billion nor any amount whatsoever has been traced to or recovered from Edu’s bank accounts nor has any proceed of crime been traced or recovered from her to warrant the scurrilous article under reference.

 

“Suffice it to say that in the aftermath of the publication of this scandalous article (which the BBC caused to be disseminated to millions of persons across the globe), our client has been inundated by calls and messages from friends, associates expressing their shock and consternation. Our client has suffered immeasurable reputational damage, psychological trauma and anguish as a direct consequence of the publication and dissemination of the article,” it added.

 

In light of the above, the Law firm thereby demanded that the BBC should pull down the article from its website and/or any other associated platform, immediately, while demanding a public apology to Edu, for the false and defamatory content published.  

 

“Furthermore, we demand that the BBC, within 48 hours from the receipt of this correspondence, issue and publish an immediate and unqualified retraction of the aforementioned article and a public apology to our client, for the false and defamatory content published. This retraction and apology must be given the same prominence as the initial offensive article,” it explained. 

 

Should the BBC fail and/or neglect to comply with the above demands, the law firm posited that it would take legal action against the media platform. “We have our client’s instructions to, without further recourse to the BBC, initiate swift legal action(s) before the appropriate Courts to obtain redress for the injurious falsehood peddled in your article, and to seek punitive and exemplary damages for $50 million against the BCC for the damage and injury suffered by our client,” it stated.

 

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