Court Gives Atiku 14 Days To File Amended Defence To Buhari’s Libel Suit

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A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory has given former vice president and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, 14 days to file his amended statement of defence in the suit seeking N40million damages for alleged libel against President Muhammadu Buhari and his family.
The court headed by Justice Binta Mohammed also struck out the name of the 2nd plaintiff in the suit, the Buhari Campaign Organisation (BCO), and replaced it with its erstwhile director of communication and strategic planning, Mallam Gidado Ibrahim, as interested party on behalf of the Buhari family.
In the suit filed on January 22, 2019, the plaintiffs are praying the court to order Atiku to pay N40million for libel following the former vice president’s alleged defamatory claims published on December 27, 2018 that President Buhari and members of his family own substantial shares in telecoms giant, 9mobile, and Keystone Bank repectively.
In her ruling in which she struck out BCO’s name as plaintiff, Justice Mohammed joined Gidado Ibrahim as the 2nd plaintiff on behalf of the Buhari family.
This followed a motion on notice brought by counsel to the plaintiffs,  Abdulrazaq Ahmed, praying the court for leave to amend the plaintiffs’ writ of summon, statement of claim and file witness deposition on oath from the amended court process.
After striking out the name of the Buhari support group, BCO, from the suit, Justice Mohammed ordered that the first plaintiff’s (Buhari’s) family be joined in the suit as 2nd plaintiff ably represented by Gidado Ibrahim.
The judge also asked the plaintiffs to file and serve their amended writ of summons and statement of claim within seven days from the date of the ruling.
Accordingly, she asked the defendants, Atiku and his campaign spokesman, Phrank Shaibu to file and serve their amended statement of defence, if any, within 14 days.
In her ruling, Justice Mohammed held that against the submissions of the defence counsel, “there is no substantial reason not to allow the amendment of typographical errors and the striking out of the Buhari Campaign Organisation as sought by the applicants.
“The courts are always in favour of amendment to ensure that a party properly and correctly brings out the matter in controversy”, the judge added, noting further that “the aim of an amendment is usually to prevent the manifest injustice of a cause from being defeated or delayed by formal slips which may arise from the inadvertence”.
In the suit filed before the court, the BCO had also joined Buhari as 1st defendant in the suit.
In its witness statement on oath made by its then director of communication and strategic planning, Mallam Gidado Ibrahim, the plaintiffs told the court that Atiku and his media aide allegedly engaged in smear campaign of calumny against Buhari by willfully allowing and sponsoring the said purported defamatory and image-damaging statements to be published by some newspapers to members of the public.
The president and his family in the instant case are praying the court for a declaration that “the 1st Defendant (Phrank Shaibu)  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 also sought 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 1 st Plaintiff who is a public figure, an honourable presidential candidate and reputable gentleman to the core”.
But in a counter motion, Atiku asked the court to strike out the suit, even as he sought for an order compelling President Buhari to pay him damages in the sum of N200 billion.
Atiku’s demands are contained in his counter-claim in response to the N40 million libel suit against him over an allegation that he defamed Buhari and his family.
In the 53 paragraph counter-claim signed by Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN) and 11 other lawyers, Atiku is also claiming a total of N200 billion for killings in the country by insurgents, high tension and democratic instability in the country, in addition to lopsided appointment in the country.
But the plaintiffs told the court headed by Justice Binta Mohammed that Atiku’s counter-claim in which he challenged President Buhari’s capacity and performance in office as president can only be sustained in a separate suit.
In its defence to Atiku’s counter claim, the plaintiffs said the PDP presidential candidate’s counter-claim cannot be taken along with the suit it filed urging the former vice president to provide proof of evidence before an FCT High Court sitting in Abuja that President Buhari and members of his family own substantial shares in 9mobile and Keystone Bank.

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