By Kazeem Ugbodaga
The candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) for senatorial by-election in Lagos East, Mr. Tokunbo Abiru has disclosed his plan to file N1 billion suit against the Media Director of the People Democratic Party (PDP) Senatorial Campaign Council, Dr. Adetokunbo Pearse for alleged character defamation.
Abiru, who is the immediate past Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Polaris Bank Limited, has also asked PDP’s media director to retract all defamatory publications against his person within seven days or he might consider legal proceedings if Pearse failed to comply with the demands.
He gave these conditions in a letter of claims his legal counsel, Mr. Kemi Pinheiro (SAN) wrote to the media director of the PDP Senatorial Campaign Council, faulting his statements credited to him on the points of law.
Pearse had repeatedly called for Abiru’s disqualification from the senatorial contest in Lagos East, alleging that the APC candidate was guilty of double registration without hard facts.
Pearse had, also in a statement he signed, alleged that Skye Bank Plc “collapsed under Abiru’s leadership” and that Polaris customers “are today accusing Abiru of fraud.”
However, in the letter of claims dated October 4 by his legal counsel, Abiru noted that Pearse’s allegations amounted to a very serious case of libel, which he said, had caused him considerable distress and embarrassment.
The letter added that all the allegations made against Abiru “are false to your knowledge and your attack on him was unjustified, malicious and callous.
“In demonstration of factual inaccuracy in your allegations, there is no criminal charge pending against, or a conviction of, our client on the allegation of financial impropriety in the bank or voter fraud.
“If indeed Skye Bank Plc collapsed under his leadership, which is false, we wonder how come he was retained by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as the Chief Executive Officer of the Polaris Bank Limited.”
Disturbed by these unfounded claims, Abiru, in his legal counsel’s letter, demanded that PDP’s media director retracted all defamatory claims against Abiru and tendered apology to be approved by his legal counsel.
The letter said: “We have also advised our client that he is entitled to substantial compensation for the injury of his reputation and feelings in respect of which we invite your proposal. Our clients also demand from your all the legal costs he has incurred so far on this matter.
“If we do not receive a satisfactory reply within seven days of receipt of this letter, our instructions are to commence legal proceedings against your persons, without further recourse to you, wherein our client shall claim against you.
“The claims are as follows damages, including exemplary damages, in the sum of N1, 000,000,000.00 for libel contained in your defamatory publication; injunction restraining further publication in any manner related to the similar words defamatory of our client and an order directing you to retract or cause to be retracted the said defamatory words in the same form adopted in your publication,” Abiru said in a letter by his counsel.
The CBN had, in 2016, appointed Abiru as the Chief Executive Officer of Skye Bank Plc when the bank recorded about 80% non-performing loans far above the regulatory standard.
Consequently, Abiru executed a transformation plan that brought the bank from liability to profitability, which culminated in the establishment of a bridge bank, Polaris Bank, now a leader in the country’s financial sector.
Contingent on its 2019 audited report and financial statements, Polaris Bank posted N27.35 billion profit after tax in the 2019 financial year under Abiru’s leadership.
In terms of profits after tax, relatively, Polaris performed much better N660 million posted by EcoBank; N7.13 billion by Sterling Bank; N10.66 billion by FCMB; N16.35 billion by Union Bank; N5.03 billion by Wema Bank and N2.95 billion by Unity Bank.
After successfully executing the mandate of the CBN in the bank, Abiru retired from the bank and decided to contest elective position on the platform of the APC.