EKITI State Governor Ayo Fayose has advised wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, to wait till end of his tenure on October 16, 2018, to sue him for defamation on her alleged link with the Halliburton scandal. Fayose, in a letter by his counsel, Mike Ozekhome, a copy of which was made available to reporters in Ado-Ekiti yesterday, said he enjoys constitutional immunity from civil and criminal proceedings as governor.
The governor said the statement he made regarding the alleged involvement of Mrs. Buhari in the Halliburton scandal was “correct and justified in law, having regards to a court judgment convicting Mr. William Jefferson of bribery in the case”.
The counsel to Mrs. Buhari, Mary Ekpere & Co, had written to Fayose on June 22, demanding a retraction of the governor’s statement that her client (Mrs. Buhari) was involved in the Halliburton scandal.
The legal firm threatened a legal action, if the retraction was not made within five days.
However, Ozekhome said Fayose’s statement was correct and justified, having been factually premised on an existing court judgment.
The letter reads: “Our client has referred to us your letter of June 22, 2016, on the alleged defamation of the character of your client, the wife of Muhammadu Buhari, with firm instructions to reply to and reject same.
“Our client states and reaffirms that the statement he made as regards the involvement of Mrs. Aisha Buhari, in the Halliburton scandal, is correct and justified in law; having regards to a court judgment convicting Mr. William Jefferson for bribery in the Halliburton case.
“Therein, the name of the President’s wife featured conspicuously. On Page 22 of the judgment delivered by the United States District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, USA, in Criminal No 1: 07CR209, Mr. William Jefferson was sentenced at 9 am on November 13, 2009, by Mark D, Lytle. Your client, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, was mentioned in the judgment. The judge referred to exhibits 36-87 in the following words, for clarification;
“See also Government Exhibits 36-87 (6/26/02 $170,000 wire transfer from account in Nigeria in the name of Aisha Buhari to an account in the name of The ANJ Group, LLC, identifying “William Jefferson” as beneficiary)… Given the age of the defendant, the severity of the sentence calculated by the Probation Office, the defendant’s frequent travel overseas and unexplained wire transfers from overseas locations to financial accounts used by the defendant, the defendant cannot rebut the presumption at sentencing that he is a risk of flight.”
The statement added: “Williams Jefferson is serving a jail term in the USA and to the best of our client’s knowledge, this judgment has not been challenged or set aside by any appellate court of law anywhere in the world.
“The statement of our client, is therefore correct and justified, same having been factually premised on an existing court judgment above referred to.”
On the immunity enjoyed by Fayose against civil and criminal proceedings, the senior advocate said: “Your attention is also drawn to Section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as altered, on the immunity enjoyed by our client from civil or criminal proceedings for the period that he occupies the office of the governor of Ekiti State.
“You may, therefore, advise your client to wait until after October 16, 2018, when our client’s tenure expires. When that happens, we shall join issues with your client in a competent court of law, in the event that your client does not have a change of heart.”