Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Former vice president and presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has asked a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for an order stopping President Muhammadu Buhari and security agencies from interfering with the 2019 general elections.
But it is President Muhammadu Buhari and his campaign organisation (Buhari Campaign Organisation) who dragged Atiku Abubakar and his Personal Assistant, Phrank Shaibu, before the court over alleged defamation.
In the said suit marked FCT/HC/CV/ 804/2019, Buhari accused Atiku and his aide, of making several defamatory statements in some national newspapers to the effect that he (Buhari) used his position as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and head of the government to fraudulently acquire two private companies, Keystones Bank Plc, and 9Mobile Communication Ltd, for himself and family members and friends.
The plaintiffs told the court that the defendants falsely claimed that the president acquired the said companies using his influence and the control he has over the head of parastatals or organisations that are connected with the activities of such companies.
In the suit filed by A.I. Ahmed, the plaintiffs alleged that Phrank Shaibu (1st defendant) made the purported and concocted defamatory statement against Buhari in Nigeria newspapers prominent among the papers are The Vanguard newspaper of December 27, 2018, The Punch Newspaper of December 27, 2018, among others.
They claimed that the reputation of the president was greatly affected by the undue diligence with regard to the authenticity of the information as it relates to the true ownership of the alleged companies which the 1st defendant on behalf and for 2nd defendant falsely published in the aforementioned newspapers for the consumption of the public.
But in his statement of defence filed by his counsel, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN), Abubakar who attacked the competence of the suit, urged the court to grant an order mandating President Buhari to apologise to him for filing a frivolous suit against him.
He further asked for an order of court mandating that the total sum of N2billon as damages be sent to all the IDP camps across the country and for equipment of libraries and Information Technology equipment for all state universities in Nigeria.
Besides, Atiku in his counterclaim is seeking an order of the court ”mandating President Buhari and his agents including security operatives and officers to abide by the rule of law and the principle of separation of powers entrenched in the constitution and should not intervene in the forthcoming elections.
In a 56-paragraph witness statement on oath deposed by Abraham Udoh, the PDP presidential candidate told the court that President Buhari had failed Nigerians by his inability as a president, to stop the ruthless and wanton killings that have rendered the citizens, farmers, women, and children homeless without food or basic amenities of life and led to the emergence of various Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps across several states in the country.
“That under the present administration, there are over 108, 000 Internally Displaced Persons grappling with a litany of infections and hunger.
The defendants/counterclaimant stated that “in Taraba State, the number of IDPs in the various camps are: Mayo Dassa (402 IDPs); Gullong (1,259), ATC Kofai (968), Abuja I and II (357), Dorowa/Magami/Malam Joda (579), Sabon Gari (482), Malum (872), Murtai/Yaukani/Yelwa (554), Mile Six (74), Nyabukaka/Tutan Kurma/Kasa (148) and Nukkai (30).
“That in Plateau State, there are a total number of 38, 051 IDPs who were victims of the June 23 and 24 violence involving suspected herdsmen and villagers in Barkin Ladi, Riyom, Mangu, Bokkos, and Jos South local government areas are taking refuge in 31 camps.
“That in Benue State they have registered more than 180, 000 displaced persons in eight camps while over 500, 000 IDPs are taking shelter wherever they find space.
Atiku further informed the court that President Buhari’s “lopsided appointments and insensitivity to the principle of Federal character laid down in Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution had led to disunity amongst Nigerians.
“That the current division in Nigeria was ignited by that infamous five percent versus 97 percent speech that President Buhari gave in Washington on June 23, 2015. No father should ever tell some of his kids in the presence of the rest of his kids that he loves them more than the others. When this happens, the discontent that it will cause may lead to the breakup of that home.
“That in a report by Transparency International (TI) released on February 21, 2018, Nigeria was still ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
That the inability of the Buhari administration to combat grand corruption has led to astronomical plundering of public coffers costing the Nigerian taxpayers around 25 per cent of annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“That according to a recent report released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on February 28, 2018, Nigerians are getting poorer despite the country’s slow recovery from a devastating recession.”
Atiku further posited that ”Buhari’s desecration of the judicial process of the nation had led to high tension and democratic instability in the country.
“That Buhari in flagrant abuse of his veto power, without any unilateral support from other tiers of government, illegally and unconstitutionally suspended the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen from office on January 25, 2019, without strict adherence to the provisions of Section 292 of the 1999 Constitution which laid down the procedure for the removal of a judicial officer in his capacity.
That in further usurpation of the Constitutional functions of the National Judicial Council (NJC), Buhari swore in an illegal acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Mohammed.”
Meanwhile, the case will come up for hearing on March 7, before Court 34, Apo Division of the FCT High Court.