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Court strikes out Kwara Gov’s aide suit against National Pilot Newspaper

A magistrate’s court sitting in Ilọrin, Kwara State capital, has struck out a defamation suit instituted by an aide to the Kwara State Governor, Mr…

A magistrate’s court sitting in Ilọrin, Kwara State capital, has struck out a defamation suit instituted by an aide to the Kwara State Governor, Mr Fafoluyi Micheal, popularly called Solace, against National Pilot Newspaper and its reporter, Ahmed Ajikobi.

The development is coming after 7 months of legal battle.

Solace had, through a direct complaint, dragged the medium and the reporter to court over alleged criminal conspiracy, inciting public disturbance, injurious falsehood, criminal defamation and cyber stalking.

The offences contravene sections 97, 114, 393 and 392 of penal code and section 27 and 24 of Cyber Crimes (Prohibition and Prevention ETC) Act 2015.

He referred to the company’s online publications of May 15 and October 16, 2023 as injurious to the governor of Kwara state, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, and his family.

Counsel representing the news medium, Barrister Michael Owonishola, at the previous sittings, had urged the court to strike out the matter over lack of jurisdiction.

Delivering the ruling at the resumed trial, Magistrate Shade Lawal said the court lacked jurisdiction to handle the case adding that cyber stalking can only be tried at the Federal High Court.

Barrister Owonishola, the medium’s counsel, expressed satisfaction over the ruling.

He recounted that “We filed a preliminary objection raising three grounds that the case is civil in nature. We cited section 97 (7) of the criminal administrative law of Kwara State and equally raised the issue of locus standi, that the court lacks the legal right to try the matter and the issue of cybercrime.

On his part Reacting, the paper’s Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, Alhaji Billy Adedamola, appreciated God and everyone particularly its readers for standing by them.

According to him, “I thank everyone and congratulate the management and staff of National Pilot, our numerous readers and viewers of our TV. I equally thanked the Magistrate for upholding the truth, justice, independence and integrity of the judiciary over the matter.

“The victory is for all lovers of the press, those who are fighting for freedom. We’ll continue to do our job as dictated by the constitution and hold the government accountable to the people not minding danger to our lives. We won’t stop rendering social responsibility services”.

The former Chief Press Secretary to the Kwara State Governor, Alhaji Moshood Adebimpe, advocated for strong relationship between the government and the media practitioners stressing that not all cases should be taken to court before it could be resolved.

He urged the people managing the government media to see court as last option in the settling of matters.

“My coming to court all this while is to solidarise with my professional colleague whom we’re both in the same constituency. The ruling is expected. We should know that society belongs to all of us, media practitioners are not here to destroy the society, that is why we’re the fourth estate of the realm bridging the gap between the government and the governed.

“We speak for the less privileged, for the downtrodden, if there are issues, I believe it’s better we sit down to discuss rather than coming to court. The suit is coming from someone who’s expected to be a professional colleague.

“Are you saying we should stop speaking for the people whom we represent? All the same, we thank the judiciary for the courage and I want to advise my colleague that we shouldn’t be discouraged. We all read the story, though, if anyone still feel dissatisfied, he still have the right to complain.

“With the media aide or practitioner, let’s try to build a unified body, some of us have played the role of media aide in the past, we knew how we built relationships”, he submitted.

Lawyers React

Lawyers have however reacted to the development describing it as a victory for the medium and the media fraternity in the state.

According Barr. Issa Manzuma, a former state chairman of NBA, Ilọrin, it’s victory to democracy.

“The National Pilot’s victory today is not only for the newspaper, but for democracy. It’s unfortunate, the attempt by the government from both state and federal levels to silence the media. “I congratulate the medium and the judge for being bold in doing the right thing. The court verdict is the pronouncement of truth”, he said.

For Barrister Muftau Olobi, “I sympathise with the governor over the loss.

“The case was not adequately researched before it was filed, especially one of that nature with one of its legs that bothers on cyberstalking. It is not ordinarily a case the Magistrate can handle.

“Why institute an action before a court you know has no jurisdiction. The court has done the right thing, solace has the right to go back to the drawing board and the defendant in that case should equally act timely by instituting an action against the complainant in the case. I sympathise with the governor over the loss of the case occasioned by the ineptitude and carelessness of who filed the action at the Magistrate court.

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