Though organizers of the reception for newly appointed Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Yusuf Jamoh may have envisaged a harmonious outcome, the reception may have rather fueled discord amongst industry stakeholders. The reception held at Eko hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.
It would be recalled that Jamoh’s appointment has been commended by industry players because he is a thorough bred professional who is conversant with the workings of the industry.
Stakeholders reason that indications that the reception may be a subject of controversy started when the invitation card for the controversial party which trended at most maritime whatsapp platforms penultimate week did not reveal the identities of the organizers of the reception who were not from NIMASA.
The invitation letter reads: You are cordially invited to Maritime Industry Reception in Honour of Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Dr Bashir Y. Jamoh. Date: Wed, March 18th 2020. Venue: Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos. Time: 6pm prompt.
This card admits one. RSVP – 07064911051, 08033088007.
No sooner than the party was over that an online news portal picked on it and dissected as well as x-rayed alleged flaws of the party.
This development degenerated into a letter from the Chambers of Pottershed to Mr. Sylvanus Obasi, Publisher of Platform Reporters, alleging defamation of Mr. Bolaji Akinola, publisher of ShipsandPorts who the letter indicated was the unknown organizer of the reception.
The letter dated 23th, March, 2020 was titled, “DEFAMATORY PUBLICATION AGAINST MR BOLAJI AKINOLA”.
The letter which was signed by A. O Akanji (Mrs) for Pottershed Chambers stated in part: “Our client has furnished us with your online publication of 19th March 2020, captioned “Jamoh’s ‘Deception Party’: A Frivolous Bad Beginning”… .
“The true and ordinary meaning of your publication depicts our client as deceitful, corrupt, insincere, a schemer and sycophant who organised a Reception Party, surreptitiously to incur favours from Dr Jamoh”.
“This falsity in your publication has made our Client, a respected Maritime expert, odious to his colleagues and contemporaries in the maritime industry. This has caused our Client a great distress, humiliation, emotional trauma and embarrassment within the maritime industry”.
“In view of this, we demand that a retraction of the damaging publication and an unequivocal apology be made in writing to our Client and on copied to all Platforms where the libelous publication were shared (within 7 days from the receipt of this letter).
“In addition, we demand that the said publication be removed from your website within 24 hours from the receipt of this letter. Note that the retraction of the publication must be given the same place of prominence as the initial damaging publication”, the letter stated, adding that failure to do as demanded within the stipulated time would lead to “legal proceedings against you in the competent Court of Law… without any further communications from this Chambers”.
Reacting, Obasi reportedly said that he had forwarded the said publication and Bolaji letter to Platform Reporters lawyers who have been instructed to understudy the two documents and prepare to meet Mr. Bolaji’s lawyers in court if they choose to action the case.
He maintained that his company would not retract the story or apologise to anyone because the publication did not in any way mention Mr. Bolaji Akinola or his company, Ships and Ports Communications as the organisers.
He added that the organisers also shoot themselves in the leg on any defamatory claims when it released an online graphic poster of the reception party without showing any personal or corporate identities of the behind the reception as the host, thereby choosing to be faceless.
“You can’t hide under the veil of anonymity to perform an act, and when the press addresses you anonymously, you now jump into the open and claim defamation. It doesn’t work that way. There are five conditions a statement must meet before it can be actionable as defamation”.
“Besides, as a critical maritime stakeholder and journalist by profession, I have a ‘qualified privilege’ by law to ‘express my personal opinion’ and make ‘fair comments’ for public interest on events and happenings in the maritime sector, that was what I simply did in that publication, and I have no grudge against anyone neither do I owe anyone any apologies”, Obasi said.
With these developments, some industry players have called for an out of court settlement of the matter, while others are of the opinion that the matter may after all be tested in a court of competent jurisdiction.