The Kaduna State Governor had in suit no: CV/3133/2020, instituted suit against Joseph Onu and Auta Nyada over his dis-invitation to speak at the 2020 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, alleging defamation.
In his statement of defense filed by Edwin INEGEDU, Esq. of Pitcher & Courts LP sighted by TheNigeriaLawyer, Onu said the Suit is “frivolous, baseless, vexatious and amounts to a vindictive exercise” and urged the court to dismiss same and award substantial cost in his favour.
Onu denied all the averments of Governor El-Rufai and said he (Onu) did not publish any malicious, unlawful, unjustified, false and unwarranted defamatory statement against the Claimant, and puts him to strict proof of his assertions.
Relying on the defense of justification, Onu said the Claimant is not a peace loving and law-abiding citizen as it is on record that he threatened foreign election observers with death, and being carried back home in body bags.
He said the Claimant is not a strong believer in press freedom and freedom of expression. “He is reputed as the Governor with highest level of intolerance for press freedom in Nigeria and the Courts have held that he had violated the human rights of his critics and persons who hold opposing views.
“He has, through his utterances, shown that he directly and indirectly instigates Security agencies to unlawfully arrest and detain his critics and persons who hold contrary opinion to his own.
“The Claimant has used the power of the state to persecute and intimidate his opponents and critics alike.” Onu stated
According to Onu, the over 17 civil cases instituted in Courts do not show that the Claimant is committed to the rule of law. “Rather it exposes a penchant for intolerance of criticisms as a public officer, and a bid to use the law as a tool of intimidation, and also as a means of evading the law.
“The Claimant’s several utterances do not show that he detest and abhors violence or that he has a deep-rooted belief in the sanctity of every human life. The 1st Defendant shall at the trial rely and found upon the Reports of his utterances on carrying foreign election observers back in body bags; the Southern Kaduna Crisis and debts owed to the Fulanis.”
Onu accused the Claimant of belonging to a powerful group of Nigerian State Governors who use security agents to arrest and intimidate journalists and activists.
He listed the victims of the Claimant to include Dadiyata Abubakar Idris and Stephen Kefason who were mentioned as being held on the orders of the Claimant; Dr. John Danfulani; Stephen Kefason, Luka Binniyat and Segun Onibiyo who were all charged to Court on charges of injurious falsehood after critiquing the Claimant or writing stories or opinions which the Claimant found offensive; Ms. Gloria Ballason who the Courts held, on two occasions, that the Claimant had violated her rights and the United Nations Basic Principles on the role of Lawyers; and Mr. Audu Maikori who was abducted from Lagos.
He averred, “From the literature, particularly newspaper reports, opinions, and published statements read by the 1st Defendant, the Claimant is intolerant to opposing views and criticisms. The opinion of Open Bar Initiative that members of the NBA may be subjected to such intolerance emanated from the documents researched, and the Claimant’s much publicized tendencies.
“The Claimant, as a Governor and Public Officer, has not shown any regard for the rule of law. He was also reported to have a penchant for disregarding Court Orders…
“The Claimant, as a Governor and Public Officer, has not shown any regard for the fundamental rights of others. The Courts have held him liable for breaching the rights of Ms. Gloria Ballason and Mr. Audu Maikori, both lawyers…
“The Claimant, as a Governor and Public Officer, has not shown any regard for human beings. The reports about the killings in Southern Kaduna, and his other utterances exposed him as lacking in such regard…
“The Claimant has been reckless in his utterances, hubristic in outlook and irresponsible with power. He threatened to arrest Pastor Paul Enenche in Abuja and prosecute him in Kaduna for holding a view that he – the Claimant – was uncomfortable with….”
Onu also relied on defense of absolute privilege and said, “the Correspondence of 19 August 2020 from the Open Bar Initiative to the NBA was written on occasions of absolute privilege.
According to him, the object of the Open Bar Initiative is to ensure the adherence to the motto of the NBA, which is “promoting the Rule of Law.” and “that Open Bar Initiative has a duty to inform the NBA of the tendencies of persons to whom the NBA’s platform are given at its annual conference.”
He added that, “the Open Bar Initiative has a duty to bring to the attention of the NBA, its findings about the incongruity of persons who seek its platform, with its motto of ‘promoting the rule of law.’
“The NBA is a closed association and the Claimant is not a member, and therefore not entitled to any privilege.
“The National Executive Committee of the NBA met and reviewed the contents of the correspondence dated 19 August 2020, and in agreement with the content, voted to de-platform the Claimant.
“The contents of the correspondence to the NBA, were derived from Newspaper reports, opinions, statements, the Claimant and his Children’s tweets, which are all in the public domain, and accessible to all members of the NBA, and the public at large.
“The statements detailed in the correspondence of 19 August 2020 are fair comments by the Open Bar Initiative in its contribution to the planning and organization of the NBA Conference 2020.”
Onu said Statements contained in the Correspondence of 19 August 2020 to the NBA, did not cause irreparable injury and damage to the Claimant’s reputation and puts him to strict proof. He said, “the Claimant lost his reputation and goodwill long before the correspondence of 19 August 2020 was delivered to the NBA by the Open Bar Initiative. He has been branded a liar by those who he worked with and knew him personally.
“The Claimant had alleged that while serving as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, he had made payments to the High Court of the FCT and saw that injunctions were not given against the FCTA. The Chief Justice of Nigeria was reported to have queried the then Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory over the Claimant’s assertions in his book the ‘Accidental Public Servant’.
“The NBA’s platform during its annual conference is not a right of the Claimant, and its withdrawal, after the NBA reviewed the petition against his participation, is not an injury in any manner to his reputation.”
He also said “The Claimant has been held to be a serial liar by two former Presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; His Excellency, President Olusegun Obasanjo, and His Excellency, President Goodluck Jonathan. The 1st Defendant shall at the trial rely and found upon the Newspaper Reports of same.
“The Claimant has also been held to have lied in his utterances as a public Office holder by National Emergency Management Agency (‘NEMA’ ) and the Christian Association of Nigeria (‘CAN’)….
“No aspersions of any sort were cast on the Claimant by the reportage of his tendencies as a Public Officer.”