Isa Ali Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, has written to the publishers of Daily Independent newspapers demanding a public apology and retraction of a story alleging that he is on a United States watch list over alleged link to Boko Haram.
Pantami made the demand in a letter dated 12 April, signed by Michael Numa for Karina Tunyan, his legal representatives, and addressed to the Managing Director/Editor-in-chief of the newspaper.
The Daily Independent had published a report on Sunday claiming that the minister, a known Islamic preacher before his appointment, is said to be a very close confidant of the late Mohammed Yusuf, the killed leader of Boko Haram with whom he allegedly shared jihadist doctrines.
The newspaper also reported that Pantami has been placed on the watch list of America’s Intelligence Service.
The story made the rounds on Twitter as there were varied reactions to the report, coupled with the minister’s name being the number one trending topic on the social media platform on Monday for over hours.
But Pantami, through his lawyers, insisted that reputation as a scholar and notable public figure was badly damaged by the publication.
The lawyers described the report as a “false, malicious, misleading and degrading narrative simply targeted at tarnishing and bringing the good name of our client and that of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to disrepute”.
The minister demanded that the newspaper write a letter of apology to him and publish it in five newspapers and five online newspapers respectively.
The letter read: “That you are hereby given a 24-hour notice from the date of receipt of this letter to categorically retract your libelous statement made against our client.
“That the said retraction and letter of apology be published in at least 5 print media circulated nationwide and 5 different renowned online media outfits across the globe.
“That you convene a press conference to publicly announce your retraction while dissociating our client from the false claims you made which are seriously injurious to our client’s personality.”
The lawyers noted that failure to comply with the minister’s demands within the stipulated time will lead to the commencement of legal proceedings against the newspaper and all persons involved.
The Inspector-General of Police, Director-General of the Department of State Security (DSS), and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) were copied in the letter.