Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, is on the spotlight, as a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah, has instituted a N1.5bn defamation suit against him for allegedly damaging his reputation.
In the suit to be presided over by Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High in Abuja, filed on his behalf by his lawyer, Reuben Atabo, Attah claimed that Malami, in 2016, named him among some ex-governors to be prosecuted by the National Prosecution Coordination Committee for alleged corruption.
Attah, in his statement of claims, said that following the pronouncement by the AGF which was published in the media, the Specialist Crimes Directorate and the Metropolitan Police of the United Kingdom placed him on their watch list of corrupt governors of Nigeria facing corruption charges.
“I left office as the governor on May 29, 2007, and the only allegation made against me and my government were the of allegations of money laundering concerning the sale of Akwa Ibom State’s shares in Econet by the Akwa Ibom Investment and Industrial Promotion Council and African Development Fund Inc, and I had been cleared of the said allegations.
“From May 29, 2007 till date, there were no fresh facts linking me with the looting of the treasury of Akwa Ibom State, or any case of money laundering, official corruption and/or abuse of office.
“By the conduct of the defendant in causing the SCD and the Metropolitan Police of the United Kingdom to place my name under their watch list, and upon the arrival in the United Kingdom to be arrested and interrogated, I have not been able to travel to the United Kingdom to meet my international obligations to my clients and have lost several contracts.
“By the defendant’s publication, I have been brought into public ridicule, a politician not worthy of my calling and a person who cannot be trusted to hold political office, and I have therefore suffered losses and damages,” the former governor averred.
Attah also said that the suit became inevitable because the AGF failed to retract the publication as demanded in his lawyer’s letters to him.
The former governor is thus urging the court to, among others, order the AGF to tender an apology to him in three national dailies, retracting the alleged defamatory statement.
He further prays the court to issue an order compelling the AGF to write to the SCD, stating that he is not among the ex-governors facing corruption charges.
Meanwhile, the AGF, in his notice of preliminary objection, faulted the competence of the suit and argued that the court lacked the jurisdiction to hear it.
In the objection filed by his lawyer, T. D. Agbe, the Malami averred that the suit was tortuous in nature and not within the contemplation of Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution.
While praying the court to either strike out or dismiss the suit, the AGF pointed out that the court with jurisdiction over such cases is the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.
The case, due to be heard on Wednesday, was rescheduled for May 30, owing to the absence of the judge.