Lawyers, civil society organisations and the Council of Ethnic Youth Leaders of Nigeria (CEYLN), yesterday, dissociated energy giant, Aiteo Group, and its founder, Mr. Benedict Peters, from former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
They warned United States-based newspaper, The Washington Post, against allowing itself to be used by Aiteo’s rivals to promote such ‘unfounded’ links.
They also cautioned media houses against lending themselves to promote unhealthy business rivalry in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.
In a joint press conference by the groups, they alleged that the allegations sought to be published in The Washington Post against Benedict Peters and Aiteo have already been conclusively determined by competent courts or are pending in court.
Their statement, signed by Mr. Tochukwu Ohazuruike, argued that the purpose of the publication could only be to impugn the integrity of Peters and the company.
They claimed that the promoters of the campaign plan to engage a Washington Post Staff Writer, Mr. Peter Whoriskey, who has already begun making enquiries to this end. They noted that Whoriskey, who focuses on investigations of economic and financial issues, has not done any work in or on Nigeria.
The statement reads in part: “Out of the five questions Mr. Whoriskey inquired about, the question one has been resolved by a competent court of law in Nigeria and the decision widely publicised. A simple Internet search would have availed Mr. Whoriskey of the judgment of the case and the current state of affairs.
“Questions two to five were directly extracted from untested allegations contained in a first amended verified complaint filed before the United States District Court, Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.
“There are a plethora of questions which The Washington Post rather has to answer and which directly call to question its genuineness. It will be damning to the long-held image of The Washington Post that its staff have yielded the platform to be used for a global smear campaign and unhealthy business rivalry.”
In answering the allegations against Peters, the groups claimed: “Mr. Peters has stated that he has never received any favour by way of facilitation or otherwise from Diezani Alison-Madueke and there was, therefore, nothing to be grateful for. He has denounced any such attempt to link the purchase of his property with Diezani under such premises.
“His purchase of the furniture was in furtherance of his desire to furnish a property that belonged to him, and that furniture can be found, even today, at the said property at 58 Harley House. No furniture that belonged to him can be found at any other place other than in his property.
“The furniture found at the UK address of Diezani Alison-Madueke does not belong to him, and certainly could not have been the same found in his said property at 58 Harley House.
“We hope that with these answers, we would have satisfied Mr. Whoriskey and got him to alert his sponsors that the plot is dead on arrival and cannot be revived.
“We also say to all such persons who would in the future want to regurgitate these issues that the answers are already available in the public space, as there is nothing hidden and there is nothing any media house can unearth again. So, no need to take jobs from the sponsors of this smear campaign.”