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Defamation: Court Begins Hearing On BCO’s Suit Against Atiku June 20

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A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory has fixed June 20 for hearing on the suit filed before it by the Buhari Campaign Organisation (BCO) seeking N40million damages from presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, for alleged libelous claims Against President Muhammadu Buhari.

In the suit filed on January 22, 2019, BCO told the court that Atiku defamed President Buhari by claiming that the president and members of his family own substantial shares in 9mobile and Keystone Bank.

In its witness statement on oath made by its Director of Communication and Strategic Planning, Mallam Gidado Ibrahim, the BCO stated 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’s support group is 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)”.

The organisation also joined Buhari as 1st defendant in the suit.

The BCO is 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 the BCO slammed 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 BCO 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 BCO 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.

Counsel to BCO, Barr Abdulrazaq Ahmed, said rather than leaving the substance to tackle the trash with a motion seeking to address an entirely different matter from the substantive suit, Atiku must provide documentary evidence and proof of evidence to substantiate claims that President Buhari and his family acquired substantial shares in 9mobile and Keystone Bank with total assets of $1.916 billion (equivalent to N307.5 billion) as well as purchasing about ₦3 billion worth of shares in the new Pakistani Islamic Bank.

The court has fixed June 20 for hearing on all the motions on notice.

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