A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mallam Yusuf Ali, on Friday dragged a former governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Segun Oni, to court over recent accusations that he made contact with the panel that decided the Ekiti governorship suit.
Also joined in the case as the second respondent was the Western Publishing Company Ltd., publishers of the Westerner and Nigerian Compass, over an alleged defamation of character.
In a writ of summons filed at the court, the claimant argued that his credibility had been damaged by the allegation by Oni on the controversial call log between the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami, and parties in the legal tussle over the Ekiti state election.
The case was eventually decided by the appellate court, sitting in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, in favour of Dr. Kayode Fayemi of the Action Congress of Nigeria.
Ali demanded N4bn from the defendants in the suit, as well as an order of perpetual injunction restraining the second defendant from further publishing and circulating the said items.
The lawyer asked for an order of the court directing the defendants to publish a suitable apology in terms acceptable to the claimants in three newspapers to be specified by the court.
In a 27-paragraph statement of claim, Ali argued that the first defendant (Oni) had “willfully, wickedly, maliciously and falsely published untrue and defamatory words” against him and made same available for publication by the second defendant in its issue of February 22, 2011.
Ali maintained that the first defendant “in further prosecution of his unjust assault on the claimant also posted or caused to be posted on the Internet inclusive of the site of Sahara Reporters, among other sites, the said publication, thereby making it possible for same to be read beyond the shores of Nigeria.”
He said the words used in Oni’s letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, which formed the basis of the publication by the second defendant, in their natural and ordinary meanings meant and were understood to mean that the claimant was among other corrupt, unreliable and a vile members of the Bar.
He said the words meant that he was “unworthy of being a SAN, a scoundrel, a crook and a corrupt person, who goes about to undermine the rule of law and not worthy to lead both at the Bar and in the society.”
In the particulars of the case, which were made available to our correspondent in Ilorin, Ali argued that the publication was “a deliberate falsehood aimed at scandalising him because he was lead counsel to Fayemi.”
He argued that the defendants knew or ought to have known that their reference to the claimant was totally false and that no effort was made by any of the defendants to confirm the correctness or otherwise of the allegation from the claimant.
He maintained that the telephone number credited to him in Oni’s petition was not his own.
When the matter came up for hearing, Justice A.L. Oyinloye, after listening to Ali’s lawyers, including a former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Kwara chapter, Mr. Kehinde Eleja, directed the claimant to serve the notice of hearing on the defendants.
While adopting the statement of claims and the particulars of Ali’s legal team led by Dr. Wahab Egbewole, Justice Oyinloye fixed the case for April 14, 2011.