Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof Attahiru Muhammad Jega, has obtained an injunction from an Abuja High Court against Nigerian Pilot Newspapers and Nigerian Newsworld Magazine, restraining reportage on him and his activities till further notice.
Nigerian Pilot had on April 14, 2015 formally written to the INEC chairman seeking audience with him on issues thrown up in a four-month investigation the newspaper did on his tenure as the country’s electoral superintendent in fulfillment of the demands of the profession.
But his solicitors instead replied the missive on April 20, 2015, asking that Nigerian Pilot acquaint them with details of its findings which the INEC chairman would respond to in writing devoid of a formal interview.
Three days after the receipt of the lawyers’ letter, the court order was given.
The Certified True Copy of the court order, which followed an ex-parte motion filed by his lawyer, A. B. Mahmoud of Dikko &Mahmoud before His Lordship, Hon. Justice D. Z. Senchi of the High Court, Apo, Abuja, on April 23, 2015, reads:
“An order of Interim Injunction is hereby granted restraining the defendants/respondents whether by themselves, their officers, privies, agents, employees or otherwise howsoever called from publication in their Nigerian Pilot Newspapers and the Nigerian Newsworld Magazine, whether print or online edition or in any medium whatsoever the libelous findings and conclusions pertaining to the plaintiff/applicant and to have been unearthed after the defendants/respondents four months period of thorough investigation and scrutiny of the plaintiff’s activities as INEC boss referred to in their letter of April 14, 2015 addressed to the plaintiff pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed along with the substantive action now before this court.”
The case has been fixed for May 20, 2015 for mention.
Nigerian Pilot Newspapers and Nigerian Newsworld Magazine have since filed a counter suit.
In his four-point prayers, Jega asked the court to declare that the defendants’ so called “4 months period of investigation and scrutiny” of the plaintiff’s activities as INEC boss, which “unearthed shocking revelations of malfeasance, self-enrichment and abuse of office” and the finding and conclusion reached by the defendants regarding the honesty and integrity of the plaintiff that “sharply contrast with public perception” without confronting the plaintiff with the so-called allegations or documents containing such allegations in their possession and affording him the opportunity of rebutting such allegations are malicious, in bad faith, amount to blackmail and undue harassment.
The INEC boss also prayed the court to restrain the defendants, by themselves, their servants, agents or privies or otherwise however, from proceeding with the publication threatened to be published against the plaintiff in their letter of 14th April, 2015 for being libellous and intended to injure his reputation.
In the alternative, Jega sought an order of the court directing the defendants to submit to the court the result of the defendants’ so called “through investigations and scrutiny of the plaintiff’s activities as INEC boss” to enable the court determine the public interest dimension of the allegations and direct if such publication could in the public interest be published by the defendants or any other person.
He further sought damages in the sum of N1billion as his solicitors’ fees and the cost of the action.