A fresh angle has just been added to the shocking story of Olufunke Phillips, said to be a ‘volunteer member’ of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu media team.
Sanwo-Olu is the governor-elect of Lagos State. He would be assuming office on May 29.
Ms Phillips, it would be recalled, was recently accused of being a fugitive cocaine trafficker by Ruona Meyer. Both ladies, prior to the exposé, had a business relationship that went sour.
The fugitive cocaine trafficking story, which caught many people unawares, had been well celebrated in the media, as soon as it broke. However, Meyer is now contesting how Premium Times reported theirs. And thus has gotten her lawyers to write them.
Below, and unedited, is their letter as well as their demands:
RE: “WOMAN EXPOSED AS ALLEGED FUGITIVE COCAINE TRAFFICKER REMOVES SANWO-OLU FROM HER PROFILES”
We are solicitors to Ruona Meyer (Our Client), on whose behalf and instruction we issue you this letter.
Sir, our Client brought to our attention your online newspaper article dated the 15th day of March 2019, with the caption “Woman Exposed As Alleged Fugitive Cocaine Trafficker Removes Sanwo-Olu From Her Profiles,” referring to Ruona Meyer’s public disclaimer against one Olufunke Phillips (Ms. Phillips); the publication was written by Jayne Augoye , Assistant Editor Entertainment and Lifestyle , Premium Times.
Sir in your publication, Jayne Augoye quoted a top aide to the governor elect of Lagos State, who allegedly had not been authorized to speak on the issue, as saying;
• “We weren ’t aware of it until Friday morning when people started sharing the report after it became a social media issue. We have called Funke and she told us that she was friends with Ruona until they fell out about three years ago .
“Funke explained that Ruona called her three days ago and threatened to destroy and release her secrets if she doesn’t do a particular thing. I will like to state categorically that Funke is not an aide of Mr Sanwo- Olu .”
We would like to state on record that this is absolutely not true; the only communication which our Client has had with Ms. Philips was the disclaimer published on her Facebook page, there was no telephone conversation as the two of them have not spoken or had any dealing since 2016 when our Client severed any and all communication and /or relations with her, owing to the same illegal drug related charges, which at the time she did not deny or show proof of being acquitted from the criminal charges against her.
Sir, the quote in your publication would suggest that Ms. Phillips’ criminal record is secret or false, and our Client is the only person who knew of this secret and thus leveraged on it to blackmail Ms. Phillips. That would be a misconception.
Sir, the law has declared Ms. Philips as an individual facing criminal charges who has fled bail. The Federal Government of Nigeria instituted an action against her and a Federal Government agency NDLEA went on the record to say she skipped bail.
It is therefore not a secret; the court processes and records in Suit No . FHC /L/91C/07 are public documents for anyone to access at their pleasure. As far back as the 4th day of July 2011, ALLAFRICA .COM a Pan- African online news publication, published a story captioned “Nigeria: 26 Drug Barons Jump Bail” referring to number of accused persons, charged with illegal drug related offences who were released on bail and jumped bail. Ms. Phillips was listed as one of the persons who skipped bail; the article quoted the spokesman of the NDLEA, Mitchel Ofoyeju as confirming the story.
How do you blackmail somebody with information that is already on the Internet and very public?
What would be the leverage for blackmail?
Whatever Ms. Philips said to the aide of the governor elect of Lagos State, is a figment of her imagination, a lie and only aimed at slandering the well established, and excellent reputation of our Client, an internationally acclaimed award winning journalist.
Sir, we with the greatest humility dare say, that our Client is a journalist of repute with over 15 years experience across 4 countries in 2 continents and has a reputation to maintain, therefore cannot and /or would not possibly blackmail or suggest to blackmail Ms. Philips or suddenly turn around to seek inducement from Ms. Philips who has no obvious, consistent source of income or profession.
For clarification purposes Sir, our Client’s public disclaimer had absolutely nothing to do with Ms. Phillips being an aide/volunteer to the governor elect of Lagos State, as she had since 2016 blocked her completely from her social media, telephone and other communication or interactive platforms until the publication by Premium Times.
Our Client, in her public disclaimer expressly stated, that she introduced Ms. Phillips to her blog and event portal ” The Beverage Space” which she had completely set up, so Ms. Philips could be the face of the blog, however when she became aware of Ms. Phillips’ criminal history and it became imperative that she cut absolutely all ties from Ms. Phillips which she did, particularly when Ms. Phillips could not deny the allegations; this was in 2016.
In March 2019, it came to our Client’s knowledge that Ms. Phillips had continued to run “The Beverage Space” as “The Beverage Room,” leveraging on her contacts, associates, who were under the impression that our Client was part of ” The Beverage Room,” thus putting our Client’s reputation again at stake, hence the public disclaimer stating the reason for her severing the relationship privately earlier in 2016, and being the same reason why in 2019 she must now do so publicly.
What is surprising to us Sir, is that the governor elect campaign organization did not do any kind of back ground check on an aide /volunteer to the governor elect, whose criminal history, pending litigation could have caused the campaign dearly; that she was a volunteer and not an aide is no excuse for incompetency.
In this regard Sir, we should state here that we have our Client’s express instruction to pursue legal action against Ms. Phillips for slander and libel (Defamation), in which instance Premium Times would also have to be sued, having published the defamatory statement (particularly since the statement did not come from Ms. Phillips herself but from a very unreliable source) but was published as fact.
However please take notice, that should Premium Times reveal its source (the unidentified aide), it would have removed the burden of legal responsibility from itself. Particularly considering that in the later part of the article, Premium Times itself confirmed that Ms Phillips is indeed before a Federal High Court on criminal charges, reproduced for your convenience below:
“Real names Philip Esther Olufunke , Ms Phillips was charged by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency ( NDLEA ) with illegal possession of 3.14 kilogrammes of cocaine . Ms Phillips was among 25 other alleged drug barons facing trial and who absconded after being granted bail by their trial judges. Jonah Achema , the NDLEA spokesperson, told PREMIUM TIMES Friday morning that the agency would check their records on the issue before making a comment . The agency is yet to issue any statement on the issue as at Friday evening.”
All of this information is public since 2007 when the criminal suit was instituted. Therefore any insinuation of blackmail on the same public information is highly unlikely and indeed impossible.
Sir, we humbly reaffirm our request that Premium Times as a reputable publisher, you would do the right thing and reveal its source, to avoid legal liability and ensure that the reputation of our client is protected.
We thank you in anticipation of your cooperation.
Accept our warmest regards.
MELVIN AHIOR ESQ.