The Sun Publishing Limited has dragged the Nigerian Copyright Commission’s (NCC) Director of Prosecution, Mr. Abdul Ter Kohol, to the Federal High Court in Abuja, over incessant threats and harassment arising from publication of a Page 3 Girl photograph.
The suit, which also has The Sun Publishing Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Eric Osagie and Editor, Daily Sun, Mr. Onuoha Ukeh, as applicants, is asking the court to declare as unconstitutional, illegal, null and void, the threat of preferment/actual preferment of malicious criminal charges levelled against Kohol and the NCC, over alleged infringement of the copyright of one Miss Temitope Akinyemi, whose photograph was published as Sun Girl.
The Sun had inadvertently published a Page 3 Girl photograph of Miss Akinyemi on May 25, 2016, which was sent by a syndicate, whose real motive was to implicate and extort money from the newspaper. Since then, the NCC, through its Director of Prosecution, Mr. Kohol, and the said Miss Akinyemi, have continued to harass and intimidate the newspaper organisation and its managers, with a view to coercing them into monetary settlement.
In a 10-paragraph affidavit deposed to by its Counsel, Mr. Christopher Yildar, from the Chambers of Nest Idahosa and Co chambers, yesterday, The Sun said the allegation of infringement of Miss Akinyemi’s copyright, which is the subject of Civil Suit, with No. FHC/WR/CS/87/16, filed at the High Court, Warri, against The Sun MD and editor “constitutes a violation of their rights to human dignity, personal liberty and freedom of expression of the press, contrary to Sections 34, 35 and 30 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and under Articles 6 and 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, (CAP 10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990 and, therefore, unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.”
The Sun further asked the court to declare that the continuous threat of arrest, detention and preferment of malicious criminal charges against Mr. Osagie, Mr. Ukeh, and other staff of The Sun Publishing Limited, issued against them by the NCC and Mr. Kohol, orally and vide their letters dated 18/7/2017, 26/7/2016 and 9/11/2016, respectively, for an allegation of crime purportedly committed by one Daniel Ekiye, without the knowledge and authority of the organisation, constitute violation of the officers’ rights to personal liberty and human dignity, as guaranteed by Sections 34 and 35(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and under Articles 6 and 12 of the African Charter on Human Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement Act (CAP 10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990 and, therefore, unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.
The newspaper also pleaded with the court to issue an order restraining the NCC and its agents from preferring any malicious criminal charge against Mr. Osagie, Mr. Ukeh and The Sun Publishing Ltd., on account of an allegation of crime not committed by them, in violation of their fundamental human rights referred to above.
It further asked the court to issue an order restraining the NCC, their agents and privies from preferring any malicious criminal charge against The Sun in order to compel it to pay compensation to the said Miss Akinyemi, in violation of its fundamental human rights referred to in the reliefs above.
The Sun also sought an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the NCC, whether by itself, or its agents, or privies, from further violating the said guaranteed constitutional rights of Mr. Osagie and Mr. Ukeh, and that of other staff of The Sun Publishing Limited, referred to in reliefs above for an allegation of a purported crime not committed by them, “in addition to further orders as the court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.”
The Enforcement Department of the NCC had, sometime last year, invited Mr. Ukeh to its Abuja headquarters, following a complaint by Miss Akinyemi, over publication of her photograph as a Page 3 Girl.
Honouring the invitation, the editor wrote a statement at the NCC.
Before The Sun editor honoured the NCC invitation, Kohol had exhibited an unusual overzealousness, by making a telephone call to the newspaper’s General Counsel, Barrister Obinna Kalu, and threatened that if the invitation was not honoured, he would use his position to get those invited arrested and prosecuted.
At the NCC office, when the editor honoured the invitation, in the company of the General Counsel and The Sun Abuja Bureau Chief, Kohol invited them to his office and pronounced The Sun guilty, even before the case was investigated! He threatened to take the officers to court, except The Sun settled and compensated the complainant.
Investigations revealed that after the editor’s appearance at the NCC, the Enforcement Department investigated the matter and reported that following the circumstances in which the photograph was published and the enabling law, The Sun was not liable.
The Enforcement Department recommended that the NCC should not proceed with criminal prosecution of The Sun.
However, owing to his obvious vested interest in the case, Kohol ignored the Enforcement Department’s recommendation and filed a case against The Sun and joined Mr. Osagie in the suit, even though he had nothing whatsoever to do with the publication and Mr. Ukeh, in their personal capacities. The charges were later withdrawn.
Having discovered that Kohol was colluding with Miss Akinyemi’s lawyers and, thereby, divulging official information to them, The Sun petitioned the NCC Director-General, Mr. Afam Ezekude, and demanded Kohol’s investigation, over allegations of “unprofessional and gross misconduct in the discharge of his duty.”
In the petition, The Sun highlighted how the agency’s Director of Prosecution was leaking official information to complainant’s lawyer; for personal gains.
Kohol was accused of taking personal interest in the case and, therefore, went out clearly to intimidate, threaten and cajole The Sun to settle and compensate Miss Akinyemi, actions contrary to the expectations of someone holding his office.
The petition said: “As events unfold, we discovered that the Director of Prosecution was actually working in league with Miss Temitope Akinyemi’s lawyer, to extort money from our company (in the name of settlement), which will later be shared amongst them.
“In fact, the said prosecutor is instrumental and actively involved in the civil suit, which Miss Akinyemi eventually filed against the company. He supplies them with privileged official information arising from the criminal investigation, which he hijacked from the Enforcement Department because of his selfish interest.”
In the earlier case filed in Abuja, which was later withdrawn, the NCC accused The Sun, the MD and editor of violating the Copyright Act, over the publication of Miss Akinyemi’s photograph.
The Sun, the MD and editor had sued the NCC seeking an order for the enforcement of their fundamental human rights.
In the suit filed by Dr. Ehiogie West-Idahosa, they asked the court for a declaration that “the continuous threat of arrest, detention and preferment of criminal charges against the 1st and 2nd applicants and other staff of the 3rd applicants issued against the applicants by the respondent orally and vide the respondent’s letters to the applicants dated 18/7/2016; 26/7/2016; and 9/11/2016, respectively, for an allegation of crime purportedly committed by one Daniel Ekiye, without the knowledge and authority of the applicant, constitutes violation of the 1st applicant’s rights to personal liberty and freedom of movement, as guaranteed by Sections 34, 35(1) and 41(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and under Articles 6 and 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, (CAP 10) laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990 and therefore unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.”
The applicants also sought a declaration “restraining the respondent, its agents, privies and assigns from preferring any criminal charge against the Applicants on account of an allegation of crime not committed by them in violation of the Applicants fundamental human rights referred to in relief (1) above.”
Following the withdrawal of the NCC suit, the applicants had also withdrawn enforcement of the fundamental human rights suit.
However, owing to his personal interest in the matter, Kohol has moved to file the case against The Sun, the MD and editor.
Sources at the NCC said whenever Kohol is personally interested in a case, he goes all out to pursue it; without recourse to other authorities.
They also alleged high-level corruption in the Prosecution Department of the NCC, and said that Kohol allegedly colludes with complainants to extort money from companies whose cases are before the commission.