Law News
Court lifts ban on Obasanjo’s autobiography, My Watch

A Federal Capital Territory High Court in   Abuja has lifted the injunction barring former President Olusegun Obasanjo from publishing his autobiography, My Watch.

The same court had in December   2014 ordered law enforcement agencies to confiscate the three-volume book when it was discovered that it had been published before the order   was made.

But on Tuesday, Justice Valentine Ashi of the FCT High Court ordered the release of seized copies of the book from the custody of the Nigerian Customs Service to Obasanjo.

He   set aside the order of injunction   upon an application by Obasanjo’s lawyer, Kanu Agabi (SAN).

The court asked the Customs not to collect demurrage on the book for the period it had overspent in their custody.

The court upheld Agabi’s argument that the applicant, Buruji Kashamu, suppressed vital facts to obtain the order.

Kashamu , a Peoples Democratic Party Senator-elect,   is   pursuing a N20bn libel suit against Obasanjo in the court .

No journalist was in court when the judge lifted the injunction on Tuesday. The ruling was to have been delivered   on March 30 but was deferred and a new date(Tuesday) communicated to the parties.

Kashamu had on December 10, 2014 obtained the injunction from the court through an ex parte application which he filed in the N20bn libel suit against Obasanjo.

Kashamu had anchored his prayer on the argument that some parts of the book related to the subject matter of the libel suit – a letter dated December 2, 2013 written by Obasanjo to President Goodluck Jonathan.

Kashamu had instituted the suit against Obasanjo for   describing him as a fugitive wanted for drug offences in the United States.

Obasanjo’s letter to Jonathan   was widely published in the electronic and print media.

On December 5, 2014, Justice Ashi granted an ex parte application restraining Obasanjo from publishing the book pending the determination of the libel suit.

But Obasanjo went ahead to present the book to the public in Lagos, an act which the court held on December 10, 2014, as contemptuous.

Following the development, the court ordered security and law enforcement agencies, including Customs to confiscate the book anywhere it was found.

The judge in his ruling on Obasanjo’s application on Tuesday upheld Agabi’s argument that the order of injunction was wrongly made.

Agabi, a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, had maintained that the court made the order outside of its jurisdiction.

He   said, “The single ground of this application is that, in a case of libel, an interlocutory injunction does not lie to restrain publication in the face of a defendant pleading justification.

“The defendant (Obasanjo) is pleading justification. In paragraph 24 of our counter-affidavit, the defendant said his claim about the plaintiff is correct, true and justified from records available in the federal court of the US.

The former minister, who is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said the court had “issued the order without jurisdiction.”

“The moment an interlocutory injunction is granted, the issue is prejudiced, fair hearing is prejudiced,” he said,   arguing also that the court could only validly bar publication in a libel suit after the case of libel had been proved against the defendant.

But Kashamu’s counsel,   Alex Iziyon, urged the court to dismiss Obasanjo’s application seeking to set aside the December 10, 2014 order.

He argued that since the order had been enforced by Customs, the police     and other security agencies, the application had lost its relevance.

Iziyon told the court that Customs authorities had recently requested a copy of the order when their men intercepted a container-load of the book.

The judge adjourned further proceedings in the matter till May 25.

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