Court Finds Obasanjo Guilty of Contempt for Publishing Autobiography – Welcome to Olajide.TV

Court Finds Obasanjo Guilty of Contempt for Publishing Autobiography

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Former President Olusegun Obasanjo

An Abuja High Court sitting in Wuse Zone 2, Abuja,
Wednesday held that former President Olusegun Obasanjo
was in contempt of court for flouting its orders restraining
him, from among others, publishing his autobiography, My
Watch.
Justice Valentine Ashi, in a ruling, gave Obasanjo 21 days,
from the day of service of the court’s orders on him, to
show cause why he should not be punished for contempt
for going ahead to publish the book in spite of the ex-parte
interim order made by the court on December 5, and a
pending libel suit before the court involving him (Obasanjo).
The judge restrained the former president from further
publishing, printing or offering for sale, the book, My Watch,
whose content touched on the subject matter before the
court.
Justice Ashi also ordered the Inspector General of Police
(IG), the Director General of the Department of State
Services (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.
Justice Ashi had on December 5 granted ex-parte interim
order, restraining Obasanjo from proceedings with plans to
publish the book or having it published for him, and fixed
December 10 as the return date.
Despite the court’s order, Obasanjo reportedly held a public
presentation of the book on Tuesday in Lagos, arguing that
the book had been published before the court was misled
into making the order.
Yesterday, the judge took arguments from lawyer to the
plaintiff/applicant, Alex Iziyon (SAN) and defendant/
respondent’s lawyer Rilwan Okpanachi on the plaintiff’s
motion for interlocutory injunction, the defendant’s counter-
affidavit and motion for an order to vacate the earlier
granted interim order.
Ruling, Justice Ashi held that it was wrong for Obasanjo to
have proceeded to publish the book despite the fact that a
libel suit, whose subject matter formed part of the content
of the book, was still pending before the court and that the
order he made on December 5 was still pending.
He further held that it was immaterial that the book was
published before the interim order was made. He said
Obasanjo ought not to have published the book because he
was aware of the part-heard libel suit relating to the letter
he wrote to President Goodluck Jonathan, accusing a
chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Buruji
Kashamu of being a fugitive wanted in the United States.
He held thus: “The fact that the book was published in
November is irrelevant. As long as the substantive suit is
not yet determined, no party is entitled to publish or
comment on material facts that are yet to be decided on by
the court.
“I hold the defendant, not only in contempt of the court, but
to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt
and ordered to undo what he has wrongly done.
“The defendant, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, shall be given 21
days, from the day this order is served on him, to show
cause, via affidavit, why he should not be punished for
contempt committed by publishing and distributing for sale
to the public, the book, My Watch, in plain disregard of the
pendency of a substantive suit and the order of this court
made on December 5, 2014 restraining him from doing so.
“The defendants, whether by himself, agents, servants,
privies or whatever name called, is hereby restrained from
further publication or offering for sale or distribution, in any
way or manner, the book called My Watch or the like of the
visual or written materials, which contains a re-publication
or statement extracted from the letter referred to by the
plaintiff.”
Justice Ashi also ordered the IG, the Director General of
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.
The judge rejected the argument by the defendant that the
interim orders were wrongly made, as the plaintiff failed to
produce the book to show that it actually contained the
alleged libelous materials.
Justice Ashi held that since the plaintiff said he came to
court on the fear that Obasanjo was to publish a book that
touched 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.
“What I find difficult to understand is why the defendants
went through the pains to depose to the ISBN number and
other details about the book, which they said was published
since November before the interim order was obtained on
December 5, without supplying the court with copies of the
book.
“This would have served to disprove the claim by the
applicant/plaintiff that the book contains a reproduction of
the letter, which formed the subject of the libel case before
the court.
“The fact that the book was published in November, while
the substantive case was still pending is contemptuous
enough,” the judge added.
He said the failure on Obasanjo’s part to supply the court
with the book to convince the court that nothing relating to
the subject of the pending libel case was contained in it
suggested that he was hiding something.
The judge has elected to hear the substantive suit
expeditiously and adjourned to January 13 next year.
Kashamu had on February 6 this year sued Obasnajo,
accusing him of
defaming him (Kashamu) in the former president’s
December 2, 2013 letter to Jonathan titled, “Before It is Too
Late”.
Hearing in the case has reached an advance stage but was
adjourned for Obasanjo to open his defence. Before he
could open his defence, Kashamu went before the court on
December 5 complaining that Obasanjo planned to publish
a book with the December 2, 2013 letter forming part of the
content.
He sought an interim restraining order against Obasanjo,
which the court granted and fixed December 10 for the
hearing of another motion by Kashamu for interlocutory
orders.
Rather than come before the court to convince it to lift the
interim order, Obsanjo publicly presented the book on
December 9 in Lagos.
Reacting to the ruling, Obasanjo’s lawyer, Okpanachi said
his client will appeal it. He said the order, which his client
allegedly flouted were made in error because the plaintiff
failed to show, through material facts, that the letter formed
the content of the book.
“The order made cannot be enforced. They want the court
to stop an act that had been concluded. That is impossible.
We had published the book in November, they came before
the court in December and asked that the publishing should
be stopped. Is that possible?
“We shall file our appeal within the stipulated time of 14
days in the case of interlocutory orders,” Okpanachi said.

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