Immediate past Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Dr. Ahmed Mohammed Modibbo has hired three top Abuja lawyers to prosecute a N100 libel suit he slammed against an Abuja-based news magazine Power Steering. Modibbo and his contractor-wife, who doubles as a member of the House of Representatives, Aishat Dahiru reportedly paid N80 million to three Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) Benbella Anachebe, James Ocholi and Sunday Ameh to prosecute the matter before an Abuja High Court.
Power Steering magazine had in its April 2013 edition alleged that Modibbo looted over N80 billion over the years as Director, National Teachers’ Institute (NTI) Kaduna, and as UBEC boss.
Modibbo was in March 2000, appointed Director, NTI. He was in office until August 29, 2007, when he was re-deployed to head UBEC. His five-year term ended last August. Having spent over 12 years as chief executive of a federal government agency, Modibbo reportedly holds the national record as the longest serving CEO in Nigerian history.
A senior lecturer in the Faculty of law. Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, told Newsdiaryonline that by engaging the services of three prized SANs, Modibbo had by default elicited further interest about the allegations of corrupt enrichment raised by magazine.
“When I read the story that he (Modibbo) had hired three top SANs to sue this obscure magazine, the first question that came to mind was where did he get the money to pay the lawyers?
“I don’t know how much he paid, but with my knowledge of these lawyers, there is no way their fees wouldn’t have been in excess of whatever Modibbo legitimately earned in NTI and UBEC combined,” he argued.
An official of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) raised eyebrows that Ameh, who was
supposed to head a committee investigating Anachebe for misconduct, was now on the
legal team of the former.
Anachebe had last year dragged a female lawyer Ms. Regina Okotie-Eboh before the NBA
displinary committee over allegations that the lady hurled insults at him in an open court. Nothing has been heard of the matter.
Through the troika of Anachebe, Ocholi and Ameh, the ex-UBEC boss sought “the sum of N100billion only to the plaintiffs as aggravated and exemplary damages against the defendants jointly and severally for libel, false and malicious publication by the defendants against the plaintiffs.”
They further sought “a mandatory order compelling the defendants to publish a retraction of the libellous publication in five of their monthly editions in conspicuous pages as a libellous article for five consecutive months and a written apology to the plaintiffs for the damage caused them.”
Through his lawyers, Modibbo also sought “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, their agents, servants or privies from publishing or further publishing or caused to be published any other defamatory words about the plaintiffs to any person or persons.”
Modibbo admitted in his statement of claim that his tenure at UBEC expired “sometime in 2012.” The former UBEC boss further claimed that prior to his appointment at UBEC, he was in 2000 appointed to head NTI.
“As a result of his meritorious service that led to the rapid growth of the agency (NTI),” further claimed Modibbo, he was re-appointed in 2003. According to the NTI Act, the Director shall be appointed by the President for a period of three years. At the expiration of the three years, the Director may be re-appointed for another term of three years, and no more.
In the case of Modibbo, however, Newsdiaryonline gathered that his two terms of three years each lapsed in March 2006, but that he remained in office until August 2007 when he was interestingly redeployed to head UBEC.
In his statement of claim, Modibbo admitted that he was prior to his appointment in NTI an “itinerant lecturer” at ABU. He punctured claims by the magazine that he was caught in a sex-for-admission scandal in ABU and subsequently indicted.
He described his wife as a contractor and ” a woman of integrity, good background, discipline, industrious, hard working, a mother and a good wife,” who attended Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, not ABU as claimed by the magazine.However, a source told Newsdiaryonline that what Modibbo claimed on his wife’s school was a truism. “If ABU Zaria actually expelled a certain Aishatu for admission scam, there is no way you can turn around to say the same Aishatu never attended ABU. Of course, she never did!” he exclaimed.
Modibbo told the court he was “a man of proven integrity and a stout Moslem who has the fear of God at the back of his mind and does not condone nor indulge in corruption or embezzlement of public funds.” But one critic however recalled that , “The NTI Act stipulated a total of six years, but Modibbo spent almost eight years….”
Modibbo told the court that his wife, “being a contractor, had been securing contracts from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) for years before (his appointment) after competitive bidding and due process.”
Since Modibbo’s tenure in UBEC ended, Newsdiaryonline gathered that a serious lobby of key government and political figures has been going on to help him reclaim the position. Sources hopeful about the lobby said the ex UBEC boss is a protege of the powerful Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike…
Newsdiaryonline gathered that President Jonathan’s resolve to spread such appointments to reflect federal character may have thrown a spanner in the works of the former UBEC boss.
Sources hinted that Wike may also have been distracted by his political muscle-flexing with his home Governor, Rotimi Amaechi.
Reportedly piqued by Wike’s failure to “do something” since August when he was asked to hand over to his erstwhile deputy, Prof. Charles Onocha, Modibbo has been said to be exploring all avenues to secure his re-appointment, which, so far, have yielded little results.