Mr Editi Effiong, Akwa Ibom-based entrepreneur, has threatened to file a suit against Mr Aniekeme Finbarr, the Special Adviser to governor Udom on New Media, for publishing defamatory statements and smearing his image on social media after he drew government’s attention to the outbreak of Coronavirus in the state.
Effiong, co-founder of Anakle, a digital media sales company, asked Finbarr to retract his negative and unwarranted publications maligning him and publish an apology through the same media channels within the next 72 hours or face legal action.
The entrepreneur had in a series of tweets on March 28 drawn the attention of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control to the possible outbreak of Coronavirus in state following the potential exposure of 15 persons (local health workers), who had come in contact with some United States doctors on a medical outreach to Akwa Ibom between March 14 to 18.
He had through his Twitter handle, @EditiEffiong, stated that at least three of the health workers, who visited from the US had tested positive to COVID-19 while some local medics they had contact with had shown symptoms of the virus in Akwa Ibom.
“Since I started tracking yesterday (March 28), I have found at least eight people who have all the symptoms including a second-level contact who is a friend to a nurse who attended the health outreach.
“Nurse has mild symptoms but the friend has cough and fever,” he added in the tweet.
UPDATE: Since I started tracking yesterday, I’ve found at least 8 people who have all the symptoms, including a second-level contact who is friends with a nurse who attended the health outreach.
— Editi Effiòng (@EditiEffiong) March 28, 2020
The NCDC on April 1 confirmed that the state had recorded its first five cases of the infection, which the state government initially disagreed with but later acknowledged when Governor Udom Emmanuel in a state-wide broadcast announced a 14-day lockdown the next day.
But Effiong, through his lawyer, Mr Ben Ndedde, of Justice Forte Chamber, in a letter dated April 2, 2020 and addressed to Finbarr, said the governor’s aide had dismissed the information as false and accused him of creating panic to sell his test kits through blackmail.
The SA to governor’s “defamatory” message to Editi
The governor’s aide on New Media had tweeted on March 29, “Guy, @EditiEffiong is just out to create panic to sell his test kits.
“Akwa Ibom State like everywhere else is doing all it can to contain this Covid monster but it’s unfortunate someone is taking advantage of this for pecuniary reasons. Very sad!”
But in a rebuttal to Finbarr’s claims and social media comments, Ndedde in his letter to him said, “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control and government made circulars calling on individuals to alert them to curb indices as travellers entered Nigeria.
“Our client made prognosis based on awareness of sick individuals in close relationships with him. They developed symptoms after possible exposures in Akwa Ibom State. He sent tweets on March 28, 2020, and tagged the NCDC.
“Reacting to his tweets, both the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Health and the NCDC authorities followed this lead to verify and possibly curb the spread.
“His tweet was that at least three people who had been in Akwa Ibom from United States were returning between March 18 and 20, 2020 and were symptomatic.
“Their medical mission finished on March 14, they left Nigeria about March 18 complaining of symptoms and eventually tested positive. It was only natural to report such.
“But in a twist of ambitious adaptation to your ostensible New Media role, you have been on online campaigns picking on Editi Effiong as canvassing for pecuniary benefits, feasting upon a health crisis. You have deleted some but erupted with more damaging campaign posts since.”
Ndedde said though the information he (Editi) provided on the possible cases of the infection in the state imposed on the authorities a duty to verify, Finbarr’s damaging tweets had made Editi’s readers and business associates doubtful of his character, while the social media was replete with discussions of how the entrepreneur lobbied to sell test kits to the state government.
The letter addressed to the governor’s aide added, “Being that some corporate and private donor currently provide free test kits deployed to curb the spread nationwide, our client is hurt by your publication which implies that he diverts some of his client’s goodwill for personal gain to Akwa Ibom, his home state. Your post implied that he could not be trusted to offer public health campaign or awareness with financial benefit.
“And we demand that you immediately recant and retract all such negative and unwarranted publications ridiculing and maligning our client’s character just to massage anyone’s political ego. Nigeria, nay the world, is in a crisis situation. More advanced nations are groaning under the reality.
“And further take notice that in the event of your failure to do so, we shall within 72 hours hereof proceed on very extensive grounds for a wide spectrum of legal redress and damages in the coming days and months to expose the ineptitude of such unguarded write-up.”
Source: Sahara Reporters