Law News
Contempt: Court gives Obasanjo 21 days to defend self

Justice Valentine Ashi of an Abuja High Court at Wuse Zone 2, yesterday, gave former President Olusegun Obasanjo 21 days to show cause why he should not be punished for disregarding a subsisting court order that restrained him from publishing his newly released autobiography entitled ‘My Watch’.

The high court, at its resumed sitting yesterday, held that the ex-president acted in clear breach of its order, an action it said was tantamount to contempt.

Justice Ashi was visibly irked by the general conduct of former President Obasanjo with regard to the N20 billion libel suit instituted against him by a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the South-West, Mr. Buruji Kashamu.

Consequently, the court directed that Obasanjo should within 21 days from the day of the service of its order on him, adduce reasons why he should not be sanctioned for flouting its interim order dated December 5, even as it ordered security agencies in the country to promptly retrieve copies of the book from book stands.

More so, Justice Ashi restrained Obasanjo from further publishing, printing or offering for sale, the book, ‘My Watch’, which content touches on the subject matter of the suit pending before him.

The order followed Kashamu’s ex-parte application which was moved before the court by his lawyer, Dr. Alex Iziyon, SAN.

While delivering his ruling on the matter, Justice Ashi specifically restrained ex-President Obasanjo from either publishing the book or have it published on his behalf by anybody, pending the determination of the substantive suit before him.

However, Obasanjo had on Tuesday defied the interim order and officially unveiled his book, even as he called for the immediate sanction of the judge who he said acted beyond his powers.

Nevertheless, the court expressed its displeasure after it entertained arguments from both Kashamu’s lawyer, Iziyon, and that of Obasanjo, Mr Realwon Okpanach, who through a counter-affidavit, urged the court to vacate the interim order.

In his short ruling, Justice Ashi maintained that it was wrong for Obasanjo to have proceeded to publish the book despite the fact that a libel suit, which subject matter formed part of the content of the book, was still pending before him, also for the fact that the court had issued an order on the matter.

Justice Ashi held that it was immaterial that the book was published before the interim orders were made.

Orders IGP, DSS, Customs to confiscate My Watch

Justice Ashi equally ordered the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Director General of the Department of State Services (DG, DSS) and the Comptroller of Customs to recover the published book from all book stands, sales agents, vendors, the sea and airports and deposit them with his court’s registrar pending the determination of the substantive suit.

He ordered that the enrolled orders of the court be served on all media houses in the country and be equally served on the defendant by publication in two national dailies.

Justice Ashi held that since the plaintiff said he came to court on the fear that Obasanjo was to publish a book that touches on the issue already before the court, it was the duty of the defendant, in whose custody the material was, to show the court that the plaintiff’s fear was misplaced.

He said the failure on Obasanjo’s part to supply the court the book to convince the court that nothing relating to the subject of the pending libel case was contained in it (the book) suggested that he was hiding something.

Meantime, the court yesterday adjourned hearing on the substantive suit till January 13.


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