Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has slammed a N1 billion suit against the Punch newspaper and its columnist, Sonala Olumhense, before a federal high court in Abuja over a publication on January 27, 2019.
He also wants a retraction published in two national newspapers within three days of final judgement. The former president also seeks a restraining order against the newspaper and its writers—that no defamatory words about him should be published.
Third, the former president, through his lawyer, Kanu Agabi, urged the court to declare that the article does not “constitute a valid exercise by the defendants of their freedom of speech and of expression.”
Olumhense, based in the US, is one of Nigeria’s crack columnists.
The said article, entitled ‘This is the best contribution Obasanjo can make,” was about Obasanjo eight years in power and his anti-corruption drive. According to him, Obasanjo used the EFCC to hunt enemies while he himself was enmeshed in what the columnist called the Halliburton scandal. Olumhense also wrote about the National Integrated Power Project on which he claimed the Obasanjo government allegedly spent billions.
Obasanjo however insists the article was “false, malicious, unjustified, injurious, scornful, distasteful, unsavoury,” and that it exposed him to “public odium, ridicule and disdain.”
Human rights lawyer and activist, Femi Falana, is representing Olumhense in court.
Both Agabi and Falana are senior advocates, and are both known for their fire and high-calibre briefs they hold.
Agabi has represented Senate President Bukola Saraki, among other big shots in Nigeria.
Falana has rattled many in authority, the recent being the executives of the NNPC who refused to grant his Freedom of Information Act request.