A Federal Capital Territory High Court sitting in Apo, Abuja, has okayed the release of former President Obasanjo’s book: My Watch, for release.
Justice Valentine Ashi ordered on the release of the book, which had been in the custody of the Nigerian Customs Service following an injunction he slammed late last year following a complaint by a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Buruji Kashamu.
However, the judge set aside the order of injunction on Monday upon an application by Obasanjo’s lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN).
In doing so, the court barred the Nigerian Customs Service from collecting demurrage on the books for the period they had been in its custody.
The court upheld Agabi’s argument that the applicant, a Peoples Democratic Party chief in Ogun State, Buruji Kashamu, who is currently pursuing a N20bn libel suit against Obasanjo in the same court, suppressed vital facts to obtain the order.
Kashamu, had on December 10, 2014, obtained the injunction from the court through an ex parte application which he filed in his N20bn libel suit against Obasanjo.
Kashamu had predicated his prayer on the argument that part 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 libel suit against Obasanjo having been dissatisfied with his being described by the former President in the letter which was widely published in the electronic and print media as a fugitive wanted for drug offences in the United States of America.
On December 8, 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 Monday upheld Agabi’s argument that the order of injunction was wrongly made.
Agabi had maintained that the court made the order without 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 United States.”
He said the court had “issued without jurisdiction” adding, “The moment an interlocutory is granted, the issue is prejudiced, fair hearing is prejudiced.”
He also argued that the court could only validly bar publication in a libel suit after the case of libel was proven against the defendant.
The case has been adjourned to May 25.