A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, has dismissed a motion brought by former Vice President and 2019 Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, seeking to stop the court from entertaining a N40 million libel suit against him, by President Muhammadu Buhari and his family.
In the suit filed on January 22, 2019, by the 2nd Plaintiff, Mallam Gidado Ibrahim, the Plaintiffs are praying the court to order Atiku to pay N40 million, for alleged libellous claims published on December 27, 2018, to the effect that President Buhari and members of his family own substantial shares in Telecoms giant, 9 mobile, and Keystone Bank, respectively.
The court headed by Justice Binta Mohammed, threw out Atiku’s motion seeking to stop Buhari’s libel suit, on the ground that it will be against the principle of fair hearing, not to hear the libel suit.
Specifically, Justice Mohammed ruled that it offends the provision of section 36 subsection 1 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which borders on the principles of fair hearing, if President Buhari’s libel suit is not heard.
Not satisfied, the Judge granted the application by Counsel to the Plaintiffs, Abdulrasak Idowu Ahmed, seeking a leave of the court to file their amended writ of summons, statement of claim and witness deposition.
Accordingly, the Judge adjourned the case to June 9, 2020 for hearing on the substantive suit.
The Defendant (Atiku) had filed a motion on February 21, asking the court to dismiss Buhari’s statement of defence, statement of claim, and witness deposition, on the grounds that the Plaintiffs did not get the leave of court to file same, as they were amended.
However, the Plaintiffs argued that they had earlier sought the leave of court to allow them file their processes out of time, and paid all the fines (penalties) for filing out of time.
The Plaintiffs insisted on Tuesday, that the Defendant’s motion cannot be heard, because they are within time, but the court refused, saying that Atiku’s Counsel should move his motion.
In their witness statement on oath made by Mallam Gidado Ibrahim, the Plaintiffs told the court that Atiku and his Media Aide, Phrank Shaibu, allegedly engaged in smear campaign of calumny against Buhari, by wilfully allowing and sponsoring the said purported defamatory and image-damaging statements, to be published by some newspapers to members of the public.
The Plaintiffs are praying the court for a declaration that “the 1st Defendant on behalf and for the 2nd Defendant (Atiku) neglectfully, unlawfully, and recklessly permitted and caused to be published in Newspapers, defamatory and damaging statements against the 1st Plaintiff (President Buhari)”.
They are also seeking the court to order “specific damages against the Defendants jointly and severally in the sum of (N30,000,000.00) Thirty Million Naira, as the total sum above listed as financial loss the Plaintiffs incurred, due to the wrongful, neglectful, and fraudulent acts of the Defendants, which forced the Plaintiffs to spend to correct the wrong impression created in the minds of the members of the public, due to the publication caused and published by the Defendants”.
The Plaintiffs are also asking for “general damages in the sum of (N10,000,000,00) Ten Million Naira only, jointly and severally against the Defendants for the embarrassment, pain, and unnecessary financial loss suffered by the Plaintiffs, most particularly the 1st Plaintiff, who is a public figure, an honourable Presidential Candidate, and reputable gentleman to the core”.