From Godwin Tsa Abuja

A Customs licensed agent and an ally of President Bola Tinubu, Alhaji Ibrahim Egungbohun, has filed a N5bn defamation suit before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in his bid to debunk an allegation that he is a top smuggler.

Egungbohun, in the suit he filed through his team of lawyers led by Mr. Bola Aidi, SAN, said he was on several occasions, through posts that were shared on a social media platform, X, formerly known as Twitter, described as the biggest smuggler in the South West region of the country.

He told the court that he was equally wrongly accused on the micro-blogging platform, of smuggling bullets and guns to eastern Nigeria.

According to the Claimant, series of defamatory posts that were made against him by the Defendants, tarnished his hard-earned reputation and caused him a loss of goodwill.

Cited as 1st to 3rd defendants in the suit marked: CV/2286/24, are; an investigative journalist, Fisayo Soyombo, the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, FIJ, as well as Arise Media Group.

The Claimant told the court that he is an established and renowned businessman and philanthropist.

“The Claimant is a Customs Licensed Agent and the owner and Chief Executive Officer of IBD Impex Limited, a company which is into clearing and forwarding of goods, construction, agriculture, real estate and oil and gas.

“The Claimant as a clearing and forwarding agent carries out his legitimate work of importation through the land border just like every other clearing and forwarding agent.

“The Claimant is also into the hospitality business and is the owner of IBD International Hotel in Ogun State.

“The Claimant who is an indigene of Ogun State, is also a socialite and is well known within the social and public space as IBD Dende.

“The Claimant’s hard work, integrity, dedication and tenacity has given him business good will among well-meaning Nigerians and has enabled the Claimant to establish business and personal relationships with top Nigerian businessmen and politicians including Nigerian President His Excellency, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, incumbent Governor of Ogun State, His Excellency, Dapo Abiodun, amongst several others,” he averred in the court process.

He told the court that owing to “the persistent defamation of the Claimant by the Defendants,” the Eselu of Iselu in Ogun state, Oba Akintunde Akinyemi, who is his traditional monarch, wrote an ‘Open Letter’ to the 3rd Defendant on the defamatory and damaging nature of a documentary that was aired against him.

“In the said Open Letter, the monarch advised the 1st and 3rd Defendants to desist from further defamation of his subject and to always verify their claims before feeding it to the public.”

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Citing examples of some of the posts that were shared against him, Alhaji Egungbohun, stated: “The Claimant avers that in the defamatory post of 26 March 2024, the vivid description given by the 1st Defendant on how the bullets and guns alleged to have been smuggled in by the Claimant were pierced into their component parts, smothered with black nylons just how turkey is packaged, lumped together with turkey as though the real import is turkey, and smuggled to eastern Nigeria with the knowledge of a particular Customs officer in zone B shows that the 1st Defendant was either present at the time of smuggling/partook in the smuggling of the bullets and guns, or that he was present and saw when the guns and bullets were smuggled into Nigeria.

“The Claimant avers further to paragraph 35, that the defamatory statement of the 1st Defendant that the Claimant smuggled bullets and guns to eastern Nigeria is an innuendo which infers that the Claimant is a sponsor of the insecurity and terrorism in eastern Nigeria.

“The Claimant avers that the posts and publications of the Defendants have described, maligned and defamed the Claimant by Calling the Claimant a Smuggler, Gun Runner, Terrorist, Sponsor of Terrorism, a corrupt and unscrupulous person, Bribe Giver, Unlawful Influencer of Political Appointments, Drug Lord, Murderer etc. The Claimant has been on the receiving end of condemnation, abuse and verbal attacks from the Nigerian populace particularly, Nigerian users of the X micro-blogging application who have been misled by the Defendants’ publications to form negative opinions about the Claimant.

“Some comments made by some readers of the 1st and 2nd Defendants defamatory posts are hereby pleaded and listed as No. 23 on the List of Documents.

“The Claimant states that the defendants’ tagging of the claimant as a smuggler, gun runner, terrorist, etc, is outright falsehood and defamatory of the Claimant’s hard-earned reputation and character as the Claimant has never engaged in the act of smuggling, gun running, terrorism or any other illegal act.

“The claimant avers that he has never been charged to Court for the crime of smuggling, gun running, terrorism or any other crime whatsoever, neither has he been declared guilty of the aforementioned crimes or any other crime by the Court to warrant a desecration and defamation of his name in such a manner by the defendants.

“The Claimant avers that he is not a Smuggler, Gun Runner, Terrorist or any other negative and unscrupulous identity which the defendants have associated to the claimant. The Claimant reiterates that he is a Customs licensed clearing and forwarding agent carrying out his legitimate work of importation just like every other clearing and forwarding agent. The claimant is a renowned businessman and philanthropist with verifiable and legitimate means of livelihood.

“The Claimant avers that the defendants’ derogatory post, publication and remarks have soiled his hard-earned reputation before his friends, business associates, colleagues and clients.

“The claimant avers that the defendants in defaming and assassinating his name and character with reference to his goodwill and relationship with prominent Nigerians, deliberately seek to malign the Claimant’s name and reputation before his friends, business partners and political associates.

“The Claimant avers that the defamatory and character assassinating posts made against him by the defendants are permanent in nature. Permanence of the publication means that the Claimant’s good name and reputation has been smeared for life by the libelous posts of the Defendants.

“The claimant puts the defendants to the strictest of proof of all the defamatory and derogatory allegations made against him,” he added.

Consequently, he is among other things, praying the court to hold that he was defamed, as well as to issue an order to compel the Defendants to retract the libelous statements and tender an apology to him through their various platforms.

Aside from seeking a restraining order against the Defendants, the Claimant is also praying the court to award N5billion to him as general damages and another N10million to cover the cost of the litigation.

Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the matter to be heard.