- Category: Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye Esq.
- Monday, 16 July 2012
- By Mrs. Carol Olubufunmi’s Counsel
Statement by Mrs. Carol Olubufunmi’s Counsel, July 16, 2012 - Our attention has been drawn to the statement of Nigeria’s Ambassador to Washington, Ambassador Adefuye, published in Elombah.com on Sunday, July 15, 2012, under the heading: “Re: Ambassador Adefuye, Mrs. Olubufunmi & Hajiya Amina Namadi Sambo”
In the said statement of Ambassador Adefuye, notwithstanding the many grammatical errors that greatly impede clarity and comprehension, it is clear that the Ambassador has tried to repudiate the legitimate claims of our client, Mrs. Olubufunmi, seeking to impugn her character and injure her credit. He has done this in a tasteless manner with a characteristic sense of impunity.
Before we dwell on the specifics of Adefuye’s comments, we would like to state at the outset that Mrs. Olubufunmi is a legitimate businesswoman, who has been a passionate advocate for the empowerment of women. For the past two decades, she has organized several tours and seminars focusing on women empowerment, involving participants from many countries. She has had a solid reputation in the industry and among women leaders across the world. Based on her solid track record and the confidence women leaders have rightly reposed in her and her work, the Office of the Nigeria’s First Lady collaborated with her in planning a seminar in Washington DC, for which the Nigeria’s Second Lady, Mrs. Namadi Sambo, represented the First Lady, leading to Washington a delegation of over 30 Nigerian women in leadership.
It took many months to plan the Seminar. There were several communications in the months and weeks leading to the event. There were specific programs and activities forming part of the event. All sides understood what the program entailed well before the Nigerian delegation even completed preparation for its trip to Washington. A few weeks to the date of the event, Ambassador Adefuye became aware of the planned arrival of the delegation in Washington and the events involved. Ambassador Adefuye then contacted Mrs. Olubufunmi regarding the program of the events, presumably in order to coordinate any consular responsibilities of the Embassy with the planners of the seminar.
Ambassador Adefuye immediately sought to use the opportunity of the seminar to project his wife, Mrs. Catherine Adesola Adefuye, into a prominent position in the seminar notwithstanding that Adefuye’s family had no involvement in the rigorous planning that had been done by Mrs. Olubufunmi and her team. In particular, Ambassador Adefuye pleaded with Mrs. Olubufunmi to allow his wife to play some prominent role in the program just for the purpose of enabling her gain the notice and recognition of the wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Sambo. In an unusually brazen fashion for a diplomat, Ambassador Adefuye explained to Mrs. Olubufunmi that he would greatly appreciate any opportunity for his wife to penetrate the top Nigerian female leadership circles through the seminar, where she could be seen as a significant player among the women leaders of Nigeria. Out of courtesy and in the spirit of accommodation of the Ambassador, Mrs. Olubufunmi agreed to allow Mrs. Adefuye to bear, during the events, the title of “Chief Hostess”, which was just a nominal position that was not intended to affect the program.
Without going into further details at this point, it came as a surprise to Mrs. Olubufunmi that Ambassador Adefuye and his wife disrupted the program in their attempt to hijack the entire seminar and pose as the principal organizers thereof. They interfered with appointments scheduled in advance for meetings at the Capitol Hills between Mrs. Sambo and her delegation, and a US Congresswoman and a U.S. Senator. While the US lawmakers were waiting for Mrs. Sambo at the Capitol Hill for the meetings that were scheduled, Mrs. Adefuye took Mrs. Sambo and the members of her delegation to a mall for shopping. At the same time, Ambassador Adefuye urged Mrs. Olubufunmi to cancel the prearranged order of events and, instead, bring the US Congresswoman and Senator to the Nigerian Embassy and have them wait for Mrs. Sambo and her team to return from shopping. It was already bad enough that the US Congresswoman and the Senator had to wait for over an hour for the Nigerian women delegation. It was therefore difficult for Mrs. Olubufunmi to suddenly change the venue of the meeting from the Capitol Hills to the Nigerian Embassy just to please the Ambassador. This was only one out of several problematic situations that the Ambassador and his wife created for Mrs. Olubufunmi and her team, which affected the programs and the Seminar.
It is important to state that well before the Nigerian delegation left Nigeria, all participants and members of the delegation knew the cost per person for the event and agreed to the terms. It is believed that they planned their trips and got funding for it based on the known cost of the events. Part of the costs included the hotel accommodations for the members of the delegation and the cost of seminar venues, logistics and refreshments, etc. These are standard costs that you would expect to go with any such event. The program was arranged in such a way that the members of the delegation were to pay during registration at the opening of the seminar. Each person was to register and get the seminar package as she entered into the venue. However, Ambassador Adefuye and his wife had a different plan undisclosed to Mrs. Olubufunmi and her team. The Ambassador separately arranged with a Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) crew in town for a different purpose, and turned the seminar into an election campaign event for the PDP with the Ambassador fully projected as a good party leader. He came in that morning and asked all participants to go into the venue without paying their registration fees as was agreed in advance. Instead, the Ambassador assured that the Embassy would make sure that all participants would pay the registration fees later. This ultimately led to a point where the participants ended up not paying the registration fees. It was out of these registration fees that Mrs. Olubufunmi and her team were to pay the hotels for the rooms used by the members of the delegation. Mrs. Olubufunmi has been unable to pay the hotels and other vendors, who have been hounding her for payment since then and some of the vendors are threatening to sue her.
Despite the disruption and interference caused by Adefuye and his wife, the seminar was still substantially successful. As has been shown, upon their return to Nigeria, the leaders of the delegation took out newspaper advertorials proclaiming the seminar and their trip a resounding success. As the issue of payment remained unresolved, we believe that Nigerian Government did send funds to the Embassy of Nigeria to defray the expenses incurred by the Mrs. Olubufunmi in organizing the seminar. Instead of paying Mrs. Olubufunmi, Ambassador Adefuye rather chose to pocket the money, claiming that Mrs. Olubufunmi’s business name was not registered in the District of Columbia. Of course, this is an absurd claim because Mrs. Olubufunmi’s business, an LLC, is based in Houston, Texas. There was never any need for her to register the business in Washington DC just for the purpose of using Washington as a venue for a three-day seminar.
We would like to state unequivocally that Mrs. Olubufunmi is a highly disciplined and principled businesswoman. Consistent with a long-standing tradition and a high sense of responsibility, she has been careful not to undertake any measure that is likely to cause the Government of Nigeria any embarrassment. This is why she had resorted to amicable methods in seeking to get paid or reimbursed for her services and costs. It was through such effort that she became aware that funds had been remitted to the Ambassador for payment to her. We are highly disappointed that Ambassador Adefuye has chosen to the drag this matter into the open in an effort to antagonize Mrs. Olubufunmi with the Government of Nigeria. The Ambassador’s behavior has already ruined Mrs. Olubufunmi’s standing in the eyes of many American officials who had waited in vain to meet the Nigerian women delegation as well as damaged her business relations with hotels and vendors that are yet to be paid for services rendered to the Nigerian delegation. And now, the Ambassador is in the process of damaging Mrs. Olubufunmi’s relationship with the Nigerian officials by calling her unprintable names.
As if the above harm was not enough, Ambassador Adefuye recently sent a secret email to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (the EFCC) directing that agency to place Mrs. Olubufunmi on a wanted list and to arrest her at any of Nigeria’s borders or entry points. Pursuant to Adefuye’s directives, the EFCC sent a letter to Mrs. Olubufunmi’s contact address in Nigeria summoning her for a “meeting” with the EFCC officers in Abuja. In its characteristic manner of arresting before any investigation could be done, the EFCC failed to even consider the fact that Mrs. Olubufunmi has been conducting her business in the United States exclusively and has not been to Nigeria since the past 7 years when she went to bury her only son, who died in Houston, Texas.
For the avoidance of doubt, we view the behavior of Ambassador Adefuye as not only a continued breach of or interference with the contractual rights of Mrs. Olubufunmi, but also as a flagrant violation of her constitutional rights. We strongly object to Ambassador Adefuye’s use of the EFCC to intimidate and ambush US-based Nigerians who have legitimate contractual disputes with either him or the Embassy of Nigeria. Such pattern of behavior is totally at variance with the position of Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States. Also, we find as totally reprehensive and unconstitutional any involvement of the EFCC in this matter. We shall be sending a letter soon to the Chairman of the EFCC seeking an assurance in writing that the EFCC shall withdraw its letter of invitation to our client in view of the fact that it is so obvious that no Nigerian law could have been involved in a contractual dispute that arose entirely in America.
We are aware that Ambassador Adefuye has cast all manner of aspersions on Mrs. Olubufunmi. That is totally unjustified and highly disturbing. Should this matter escalate to a point of litigation, we intend to hold the Ambassador accountable for his false statements about our client. We urge the Government of Nigeria and the officials responsible to reconsider this matter thoroughly and exercise maturity and good judgment to avoid any further escalation. We also urge the Government of Nigeria to seriously consider the fact that Ambassador Adefuye’s actions and statements have tended to undermine the integrity of the Nigerian Government and the country as a whole. It is noteworthy the various statements made by Adefuye, which are totally unbecoming of a person in is office. Just as an example of Adefuye’s reckless statements, he wrote, thus:
“Mrs. Olubufunmi, a Nigerian lady resident, here in Washington for so many years apparently has some heavy connection in Abuja and succeeded in convincing that her organization, the Pan African Woman Network has the structures to organize such an event that would deserve the attendance of the first lady of her representative, in this case the wife of the vice president. The contrary was the case” …….. Ambassador Adefuye.
In the above statement, the Nigerian Ambassador to Washington clearly portrays Nigerian leaders (“heavy connection in Abuja”) as so irresponsible that they would violate protocols based solely on personal connections. Among the officials and personalities he indicted here would include even the First Lady. We make bold to state that the protocol that Adefuye suggests in his statement does not really exist and therefore could not have been flouted based on Mrs. Olubufunmi’s presumed “heavy connection in Abuja”. Yet, the fact that the Ambassador could speak of Nigerian leaders in such a condescending manner is so telling of his inability to discharge his functions as Nigeria’s Ambassador to Washington. Also, it is instructive as well as ironical that despite Ambassador Adefuye’s ridiculous belief that Mrs. Olubufunmi had “heavy connection in Abuja” which made it possible for some rules of protocol to be broken for her, the Ambassador still had the audacity to try to use the EFCC to intimidate Mrs. Olubufunmi.
Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire
Attorney for Mrs. Carol Olubufunmi
For the benefit of anyone not familiar with the statement of Ambassador Adefuye on this matter, we have attached the Ambassador’s statement in full below.
Statement by Ambassador Adebowole Adefuye: (Elombah.com, July 15, 2012)
“Sometime in early September, the mission received a notice that the wife of the vice president would be coming to represent the first lady at the conference being organized by the Pan African Woman Network.
What normally happens is that when a Nigerian dignitary is invited by an organization, the mission informed and asked to check the Benefits of such an organization. This includes who they are, the composition of the membership, as well as their aims and objectives. That did not happen in this case. Mrs. Olubufunmi, a Nigerian lady resident, here in Washington for so many years apparently has some heavy connection in Abuja and succeeded in convincing that her organization, the Pan African Woman Network has the structures to organize such an event that would deserve the attendance of the first lady of her representative, in this case the wife of the vice president. The contrary was the case.
On the day the event was to take place; there were only two people apart from Mrs. Olubufunmi and her daughter. The others were members of the wife of the vice president entourage, which were 10 not 30 people as the woman must have told you. The mission was disappointed and saw that this was a scam. We then quickly organized a befitting reception for the wife of the vice president and invited Nigerian woman as well as wives of some African Ambassadors to meet the vice president’s wife in our embassy the following day. The wife of the vice president addressed the audience elaborating on the woman for change program of the first lady. Mrs. Olubufunmi herself was present and I told her, this is the kind of event she should have organized.”
The wife of the vice president left the following morning to join her husband who was on an official trip to the UK. But before the VP’s wife left, Mrs. Olubufunmi requested that the wife of the vice president should come with her to Capitol Hill to meet one unnamed congresswoman. As it was my duty to protect the woman of the vice president, I said, Mrs. Olubufunmi, who the congresswoman was, how important she was and weather the meeting had been planned, but I was not satisfied with her answer. I told her even if the meeting was planned it wasn’t appropriate for the wife of Nigeria’s number 2 to go and meet just one congresswoman. I said that if she was to meet a sizable number of congresswoman, she can go, but if it was only one congress woman protocol demands that the congresswoman should respect our country and she should be the one to visit the wife of our vice president in her hotel or at the Embassy.
I got to know about the issues of payment, just when the V.P’s wife was about to leave for the airport. Mrs. Olubufunmi had apparently planned to collect over 3 thousand dollars from each participant for the phony meeting or conference she was planning. But there was no conference and therefore people did not pay. Mrs. Olubufunmi wrote to me later demanding that the mission should pay her for losses incurred after the mission hijacked the program. I didn’t consider it necessary to dignify such a letter with a reply and told her so.
If we are to fight corruption we should fight the tendency towards corruption among some of our people here in Diaspora. This woman certainly knows some of the few people in Abuja and she is contrived to make some money out of it by pretending to organize a conference. I’m just about to complete my first year here and I will be on the lookout for such corrupt elements among our people in the Diaspora and frustrate their activities. It is no use criticizing those at home when those of us here practice such activities. You just asked Mrs. Olubufunmi for their registration certificate of her so called Pan Africa Woman Network. Who are the members? How long has the network been in existence? What activities have they been engaged in? Then you will realize what I’m talking about.
Let me here confirm that the mission will stand by to support genuine Nigerian based organization to showcase what is good in our country. But, we wouldn’t stand by and allow anyone to embarrass the office and the person of the wife of our vice president."