The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has elected to hear a N1.5 billion defamation suit brought against former Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami by ex-Governor Victor Attah.
Justice Emeka Nwite, in a ruling, dismissed the preliminary objection raised by Mr Malami, challenging the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case. Mr Attah, through his lawyer, Reuben Atabo, had sued the AGF as the sole defendant in the case.
In the ruling, Mr Nwite upheld the argument by the plaintiff’s lawyer, Atabo, that the subject of the case fell within the scope of the court’s jurisdictional competence as provided in Section 251 of the constitution.
The judge held that the suit was informed by the action of Mr Malami, “which emanated from the administrative action and decision of the federal government to retry the plaintiff for a crime which he was earlier charged, tried, discharged and acquitted.”
The case concerned money laundering, conspiracy and abuse of office, about which the AGF granted an interview published in newspapers, prompting the plaintiff to sue.
“In the light of the above, I must say that the argument of the learned counsel to the defendant/applicant is misconceived. The main crux of the matter is not one pertaining to tort only; rather, it is one seeking declaratory reliefs as well as to stop the prosecution of the plaintiff for the second time,” stated the judge. “The authority relied on by the learned counsel to the defendant/applicant is of no moment as it is distinguishable from the instant case.”
He added, “In the light of the above, I am of the humble opinion that Section 251(1)(r) is applicable in this case and has vested this honourable court with the jurisdiction to hear and determine the instant suit. The application of the defendant is hereby dismissed.”
The judge adjourned until October 16 for a hearing of the substantive suit.