Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples 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 election.
However, President Buhari and his campaign team, Buhari Campaign Organisation, have dragged Atiku 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, Keystone Bank Plc and 9Mobile Communications Ltd, for himself, 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 the companies.
In the suit filed by A.I. Ahmed, the plaintiffs alleged that Shaibu. the first defendant, made the purported and concocted defamatory statement against Buhari in the Nigerian press, prominent among them, Vanguard newspaper of December 27, 2018, and 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 related to the true ownership of the companies, which the first defendant, on behalf of and for second 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), Atiku, 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 N2 billion, as damages, be sent to all the internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps across the country and for equipment of libraries and information technology equipment for all state universities in Nigeria.
Besides, Atiku in his counter-claim is seeking an order of 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 to by Abraham Udoh, the PDP presidential candidate told the court that President Buhari has failed Nigerians by his inability as a President to stop the ruthless and wanton killings that have rendered citizens, farmers, women and children homeless without food or basic amenities of life and led to the emergence of various IDP camps across several states in the country.
He also said that, under the present administration, there are over 108,000 IDPs grappling with a litany of infections and hunger.
The defendants/counter-claimant 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 of 38,051 IDPs who were victims of the June 23 and 24, 2018, violence involving suspected herdsmen and villagers in Barkin Ladi, Riyom, Mangu, Bokkos and Jos South Local Government Areas.
“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 has led to disunity among Nigerians.