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NECO: Gana’s lawyers writes Sahara Reporters over defamation

Jenna Josh-Daniels, Abuja
Lawyers representing former Acting Registrar of the National Examinations Council (NECO), Mr Abubakar Gana, have lodged a formal request to SaharaReporters for a public apology and retraction of three defamatory publications within 7 days.
SaharaReporters had in series of reports accused Gana of fraud while in office, but the former Registrar debunked the reports which he described as false and malicious.
The lawyers with Victor Giwa & Associates in a letter dated 5th October 2020 and addressed to the editor-in-chief of the online platform, described the reports as “libelous, defamatory and capable of lowering Gana’s reputation in the eyes of the public.”
According to the law firm, Sahara Reporters in its latest publication of October 2, 2020, relied on an unnamed source to run the headline “Education Ministry Permanent Secretary, Echono, Former NECO Acting Registrar, Gana, Others Fingered In N6bn Contract Fraud.”
While noting that the procurement process of NECO or other parastatals does not involve the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, the lawyers said all contracts under Gana’s time were dully awarded and satisfactorily executed.
The letter reads in part: “The above statements and publications against our client are libelous, defamatory and they are capable of lowering his reputation in the eyes of the public and in the minds of right thinking persons in the society.
“It is on this note that we are urgently making the following demands: That you cause to be made a public apology to our client in two national dailies within 7 days of publication of this notice.
“That you pull down and retract all stories and reports relating to our client on the above subject within 7 days of the publication of this notice on your webpage. That you publish same apology on your webpage within 7 days of the publication of this notice.
“A source told SaharaReporters that the indefinite suspension of the former Registrar, Prof Charles Uwakwe on May 10, 2018 provided Echono the opportunity to closely interfere in the procurement process of the examination council using Alih as his proxy.”
“It is important to note that our Client is a seasoned public servant and a professional examiner, who has given over thirty-four (34) years to productive public service at various levels of government, and has through dint of hard work, commitment and good service, risen to the level of a director before he was appointed acting Registrar of National Examination Council (NECO).
“Our client has a track record of excellent service and commitment to duty in his public life and he has received various awards and accolades to his credits. It is therefore our position that the said publications against our client are out rightly false, malicious, spurious and intended to injure our client’s reputation which he has built for over three decades, the law firm said.
Gana was at the vanguard of major reforms while acting as Registrar of NECO, a move that instilled prudence and financial responsibility in the agency. Between 2009 and 2017 only N900 million was returned to the Federal Government coffers.
“But when he took over, in two years he returned over N2 billion generated as proceeds from the conduct of examinations, to the federation account, with an outstanding states indebtedness to the council for 2018 and 2019 towering at N1,045,047,140.00 billion.
“He abolished the use of scratch cards in NECO to ensure that monies generated go directly to the treasury single account and worked hard to ensure reduction of examination registration fee from N11,350 to 9,850.
“Meanwhile, his administration generated N600 million per annum from checking of results, from an initial N30 million; and purchased 20 Toyota Hilux vehicles from its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to aid its logistic challenges, and also bought 8000 biometric verification machines to improve the integrity of its examinations.”

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