A former member of the House of Representatives, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, on Thursday disclosed that she would petition the Inspector General of Police (IG), Solomon Arase, to investigate how her name entered Diamond Bank’s list of debtors.
Dabiri made the disclosure at the premises of the Lagos High Court, Igbosere, when she came to file a libel suit against the bank and The Punch newspaper over an alleged N122 million debt owed the bank by Thriller Endeavours.
Following the policy of naming and shaming bad debtors by the Nigerian banks, Diamond Bank had listed Dabiri-Erewa as one of the directors of Thriller Endeavours which has a non-performing loan of N122.9million.
But the former House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora chair, refuted the claim, describing it as embarrassing and malicious.
Dabiri-Erewa who was accompanied to the court by her husband, Erewa, and lawyer, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said the report has done considerable damage to her reputation and her family’s.
She wondered how Diamond Bank listed her as a director of Thrillers Endeavours, adding that she has never heard the name until the publication.
Dabiri-Erewa stated that her lawyers had gone to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and her name was not among the directors of the said firm.
“I was thoroughly embarrassed, disheartened and my day was messed up. I have never heard the name before but I took my time and contacted my lawyers and asked them to go to CAC and do due diligence.
”I told them to find out if I am actually a director in the so-called Thrillers Endeavours and after the investigation, they said my name was not there.
“I decided to seek legal redress based on that confirmation. Many questions need to be answered: how come my name, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, was listed as a director in the so-called Thrillers Endeavours?
“According to the publication in the newspaper, Thrillers Endeavours borrowed the money from Diamond Bank in 2008 and were to pay back in 2009. So this is 2015. Apparently they haven’t paid back. How come Diamond Bank has never contacted the so-called director since the loan has become a bad debt?
“Who signed the authorisation for the loan? Was there a board meeting? Who authorised the approval of the loan?
“I believe the only way to answer these questions is to come to court. They should come to court and prove their allegations.
“I am suing Diamond Bank and Punch Newspaper for N500million damages because this is character assassination. This has thoroughly defamed me and has brought me to disrepute. It has embarrassed members of my family-husband, children, brothers and sisters.
“I said I had never owed anybody, not even myself a kobo. So, to wake up and see my picture on a national newspaper as a debtor is embarrassing especially because money is involved. That is why I am suing the bank.
“I am suing Punch because as a reputable newspaper, the correspondent should have spent 10 or 15 minutes to contact me. If you are going to put me out with my picture, ask me a simple question to hear my side.
“It would not have taken more than more 15 minutes SMS and it would not have stopped them from publishing. That is part of the ethics of journalism. That one paragraph would have made a lot of difference.
“I am highly disappointed that such a national newspaper could not have their reporter do a thorough job.
“I smell mischief. I smell deliberate attempt to defame my character that is why I am in court for this civil matter.
“The criminal aspect of it will come out because I have written a petition to the IG which will be delivered on Monday.
“I am copying the State Security Service (SSS) to also look at the criminal aspect of this case. Did somebody use my name fraudulently to claim to be a director of a company I have never heard of in my life?
“I believe that as a media practitioner, I must set the record straight,” she said.
In the Writ of Summons filed by 12p.m., Dabiri-Erewa, through her counsel, Mumuni, claimed that she had never been involved in scandalous activity, debt or inappropriate financial dealings.
She averred that she does not and has never had anything to do with the said Thrillers Endeavours, adding that she is neither a subscriber to the Memorandum and Article of Association of the company, nor is she a director.
She accused Diamond Bank of deliberate mischief to include her name as a director of Thrillers Endeavours, when she has never had anything to do with the company.
According to her, the second defendant (Punch) engaged in monumental mischief when it published her name on pages 1, 21 and 31 of August 4 edition, as a person whose company was indebted to the first defendant (Diamond bank).
She claimed that her lawyers wrote the bank and the newspaper on August 5, with specific demands but the demands were not complied.
Dabiri-Erewa alleged that as a politician, the publication of the story and her picture has occasioned monumental reputational injury to her.
She claimed that Nigerians, who were positively and favourably disposed to her have withdrawn and have been avoiding her like plague to her discomfort and embarrassment, adding that she has been subjected to public opprobrium, ridicule of monumental proportion.
Consequently, she is seeking an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants and their privies from further publishing her name as a director of Thrillers Endeavours.
She wants an order directing the defendants to render a public apology to her in three national newspapers including the Punch, adding that the apology must be given the same prominence as the original story.
Dabiri-Erewa is praying for a declaration that the defendants have defamed and injured her character by the said publication.
She wants the court to award N500 million against the defendants jointly and severally, as damages for the reputational injury she suffered as a result of the publication.
The former lawmaker also wants an order of court directing the defendants to pay, bear and be responsible for the sum of N3million, she paid for the professional services of her lawyers in the matter.