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Court to hear suit against Atiku March 7


Presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party Atiku Abubakar

Justice Binta Mohammed of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Abuja, has adjourned till March 7 for hearing of the suit filed by the Buhari Campaign Organisation (BCO) against Atiku Abubakar for allegedly defaming President Muhammadu Buhari and his family.

Before the case was adjourned, counsel to BCO, Abdulrazaq Ahmed, told the court that the defendants’ counsel just served him with statement of defence and counter claim, seeking N200 billion and for the motion to strike out BCO from the suit on the ground that the president’s support group is not a juristic person as it is not registered with the CAC.

Ahmed however noted that in line with Order 18, Rules 1 and 2 of the High Court, BCO is entitled to seven days within which to reply the defendants’ counter claims.

And since the defence counsel, Ms. Deborah Iniye Warrie did not oppose plaintiffs’ counsel, Justice Mohammed adjourned the matter for hearing.

Ahmed also pointed out that neither documentary evidence nor proof of evidence was attached in the statement of defence filed by Atiku’s team 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.

“Atiku in his 18-paragraph statement of defence only complained of the suit not properly constituted, insisting that what he said was in no way defamatory against Buhari since it was a matter of public interest.”

But counsel to the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and Phrank Shaibu held that the defamatory statements are impartial observations, opinions and criticism on a matter of public interest.

“A matter of public interest on which everyone is entitled to make a fair comment and cannot be said to be defamatory.”

In a 53-paragraph counter-claim signed by Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN) and 11 other lawyers on behalf of Atiku, the defendants claimed a total of N200 billion for killings in the country by insurgents, high tension and democratic instability in addition to lopsided appointment in the country.

BCO had on January 22, filed a suit against Atiku, accusing him of defaming President Buhari and his family.

In the suit, the plaintiff is praying the court to order Atiku and his party to pay N40million da mages for alleged libelous claims that Buhari and members of his family own substantial shares in 9mobile and Keystone Bank.

The plaintiff is also seeking 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)”.

Atiku had in a statement issued in Abuja in January through his Special Assistant on Public Communication, Phrank Shaibu, alleged that the first family had acquired shares in 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.

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 by willfully allowing and sponsoring the said purported defamatory and image-damaging statements made by the first defendant to be published by some newspapers to members of the public.

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