Defence Counsel’s Absence Stalls Hearing On Buhari’s Libel Suit Against Atiku

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Hearing in a libel suit filed against former vice president and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, was on Tuesday stalled following the inability of the defence counsel to appear in court.

Accordingly, the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory headed by Justice Binta Mohammed which had fixed hearing on the suit for Tuesday, February 25, 2020 adjourned the case again to March 17 for hearing.

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 N40million for alleged libelous claims published on December 27, 2018 to the effect that President Buhari and members of his family own substantial shares in telecoms giant, 9mobile, and Keystone Bank respectively.

Joined in the suit as the 1st plaintiff is President Buhari himself.

When the matter came up for hearing on Tuesday, counsel to the plaintiffs appeared in court fully prepared to make their submissions but the defence counsel, who was said to have filed a motion the previous day, was absent.

The defence counsel also failed to file and serve their amended statement of defence within 14 days as directed by Justice Mohammed.

Speaking to journalists at the court premises, counsel to the plaintiffs, A Ahmed said, “The matter has been adjourned to March 17, 2020 for hearing of the motion they filed. We have not seen the motion to know what it is all about, but I told the Registrar of the court that we must see the motion within this week. Since they filed a motion, even if they were not ready for hearing, they were supposed to be in court to tell us why they filed the motion and what they are seeking for in the motion.

“They have not even filed their defence. They were supposed to be in court because the judge fixed today for hearing of the case and they were notified. On the next adjourned date if they don’t show up we will ask the court to strike out their motion and go ahead with our case because we will consider it as delay tactics on their part. We will bring our witnesses on 17th of March to begin hearing on the substantive matter”.

On the last adjourned date, Justice Mohammed had 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, even as 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 the suit, the plaintiffs are seeking N40million damages for alleged libel against President Muhammadu Buhari and his family

In their witness statement on oath made by 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.

They plaintiffs 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 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”

 

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