An Abuja High Court Judge, Justice Danlami Sechi is set to rule on Thursday in a libel suit instituted by the former Director General of the National Sports Commission (NSC), Dr Amos Adamu against The Guardian Newspaper and its former Assistant Sports Editor, Mr Olukayode Thomas, and Chris Garuba, a correspondent of The Guardian based in Abuja.
Adamu, who is now a Director in the presidency is claiming the sum of five hundred million naira (N500,000,000) being what he claimed to be the cost of damages “for words falsely and maliciously written, painted and published by The Guardian Newspaper of Tuesday September 18, 2007.
In his statement of claim dated October 2, 2007 and supported by a 14-paragraph affidavit, Adamu who is also an Executive member of Confederation of African Football (CAF) and FIFA avers that the said article written by Thomas and Garuba portrayed him as the one responsible for the crisis occasioned in the Nigeria sports and the brain behind the removal of former Nigerian Football Association (NFA) chairmen.
Furthermore, he claims that by the article, the writers impugns his character by portraying him as someone who is unfit to hold public office in Nigeria, an unreliable, dishonest and unstable character who is corrupt and financially indiscipline.
In the said article, The Guardian had published that Adamu had been involved in lobbying members of the Nigerian Football League (NFL) to impeach its former chairman, Oyuki Obaseki. It also alleges that Adamu had ordered that the sum of N600 million communications company, Globacom paid for the league sponsorship be paid into the National Sports Commission’s account. Adamu claims that the publication is neither true in substance nor in form. He also claims that the article was intended to disparage his reputation in the eye of a right thinking member of the public.
But Thomas who is now of Timbuktu Press, publishers of NEXT newspaper denies all Adamu’s averments stating that the said article was not in any way defamatory of Adamu. He averred in an 11-paragraph affidavit he deposed to, that he is ready to justify the contents of the publication, insisting it was a true reflection of what transpired in substance and in form. He also avers that since the National Sports Commission is a creation and representative of the Federal Government of Nigeria which deals with the management of sports in Nigeria, “The Guardian is legally bound to report its activities”.
Thomas also contends that “since the personnel involved are public officers administering and managing public institutions, their conducts in the course of such duties are matters of public interest”. “Besides”, Thomas further avers that “the purported publication was sourced essentially from the letters, petitions and memoranda submitted to the senate committee on sports”. He also stated that when he tried to get Adamu’s views on the allegations, he was rebuffed.
However, the whole court processes went awry when Olukayode Thomas appeared in court last November. A lawyer whom he had never met was holding his brief. He was confronted with a statement he neither wrote nor signed. He told the court that he was never aware that the matter was already before the court. He never testified before the court. He was never examined by his “counsel”.
As judgement in the suit has been set for Thursday , Lagos lawyer and Human Rights activist and counsel to Thomas, Mr Abiodun Onidare has stated that he intends to impeach the judgement as the proceedings in the two year old suit falls short of some basic legal norms.