Saraki To Use N4 Billion Awarded To Him Against Sahara Reporters, To Transform Nigeria For The Best

By Post Nigeria June 30, 2017 19:37

Saraki To Use N4 Billion Awarded To Him Against Sahara Reporters, To Transform Nigeria For The Best

Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said the N4bn awarded in his favour against online Publishers, Sahara Reporters, would be channeled towards a foundation that would support investigative journalism, and newspapers facing challenges with running cost.

Recall, that an Ilorin High Court, presided over by Justice Adeyinka Oyinloye, had on Wednesday, slammed a N4 billion judgment against the Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, over a series of stories published last year by the medium, against Senate President, Bukola Saraki.

Saraki who described the judgement as a victory for justice system and rule of law in a statement by his Spokesman, Yusuf Olaniyonu.

In the statement, Saraki said he would explore all legal means to compel Sahara Reporters’ Publisher, to pay the damage awarded against him, even as he unfolded plan on how to spend the N4bn.

Saraki said: “The  restitution from this judgement will be channeled to set up a Foundation whose aim will be to support pure and unadulterated investigative journalism and assist the families of real journalists that die in the line of duty. The money will  also be used to support genuine publications whose owners are struggling to pay salaries of workers or meet their ever rising running cost. Part of the money will also be channelled to help lawyers who have been providing pro bono services to  litigants, particularly, on cases bothering on enforcement of fundamental human rights.”

Saraki, had through his Lawyer, Babatunde Olomu, asked for the intervention of the court, following the publication of series of libelous stories against him by Sahara Reporters. Both Sowore and Sahara Reporters were joined as defendants in the suit marked as KWS/23/2017.

Delivering the judgment, the court agreed with Olomu and granted all the reliefs sought by the claimant in the case.

The reliefs granted are as follows: “The sum of N1 billion as general and aggravated damages for libelous words falsely, maliciously and recklessly published  by the defendants of and concerning the claimant in the online issue of Sahara Reporters of October 5, 2015 under the caption “Nigeria at 55: Bukola Saraki and 83 Inmates Are Running the Asylum”

“The sum of N1 billion as general and aggravated damages for libelous words falsely, maliciously and recklessly published by the defendants of and concerning the claimant in the online issue of Sahara Reporters of Sahara Reporters of September 20, 2015 under the caption: “A polished Name for political immorality. Time for Saraki to Go!”

“The sum of N1 billion as general and aggravated damages for libelous words falsely, maliciously and recklessly published by the defendants of and concerning the claimant in the online issue of Sahara Reporters of Sahara Reporters of November 09, 2015 under the caption: “Bukola Saraki On a shopping Spree to Buy Judges…Stop Being a Clown And A Coward Man Up, face The Music”

“The sum of N1 billion as general and aggravated damages for libelous words falsely, maliciously and recklessly published by the defendants of and concerning the claimant in the online issue of Sahara Reporters of Sahara Reporters of December 1, 2015 under the caption: “Arms Contract Scandal: Senator Saraki Blackmailed CBN Officials To Pay N250 Million Hush Funds”.

“An order for injunction restraining the defendants from further writing, printing or causing to be written, printed or circulated or otherwise published of the claimant the said, or similar libel.

“An order directing the defendants to remove the offending publications from its website on the internet within three days from the date of judgment and an order directing the defendants to publish an apology to the claimant on its online newspaper and in three other daily newspapers.”

Olomu told newsmen that the defendants had refused to defend the case despite the service of the summons on them.

He said the first series of service involved an arrangement between the office of the Nigerian Ministry of Justice and their counterpart in New York, the operational base of the medium.

When that failed, the Counsel said the claimant thereafter seized the opportunities of a visit to Nigeria by Sowore, to serve him at his two properties in Ikeja area of Lagos State.

He added: “There had been series of publications by the online media house called Sahara Reporters against the person of Dr Bukola Saraki, the Senate President. And the publication had been such that portends him in bad light. So, in order to redress the situation, the Senate President went to Court sometime in 2016.

“We tried to get Sahara Reporters served with the court processes. We couldn’t because from the website of Sahara Reporters, the address is in New York. And according to our rules, if you want to serve any process emanating from any court in Nigeria, for instance from the High Court of Kwara State, the process is very long.

“You have to write a letter to the Solicitor General of the Federation, telling them that you have a process to be served in a particular country. The Solicitor General of the Federation will now write the Attorney General of that country that we have a process for a particular person in your country. We tried that, it didn’t work. We came back to the court and said my lord, since Sahara Reporters is an online news outfit, let us publish this writ of summon in the Newspaper, because the essence of service of court process, is to bring the existence of that writ to the notice of the person you sued usually called defendant.

“Early this year, we saw it on the television, we read  that (Omoyele) Sowore was in Nigeria. We got his address in Ikeja, Lagos. When we got the address, we  got the court approval to go and paste the writ of summons on a conspicuous part of the building of his two houses. So, we did the pasting. In effect, he was properly served in law.

“Dr Bukola Saraki had sued this man for defamation, defaming his character that he stole money, he did this and that without any substance. At least, we expect them to come and say yes, we did it, this is our proof. If you can say that, yes, the Court will say yes you did not lie against him, you have good reason. But they didn’t put up any defense, we served them on May 12, 2017. They didn’t come up with any defense. The Court was left with no other option than to give judgement against Sahara Reporters and Omoyele Sowore for defamation. So, that is the situation we are. The judgement is for about total sum of N4billion. Because for each of the relief claimed by Senator Bukola Saraki, asked for damages. They have not come up to say no, we are wrong, this is our defense. They didn’t do that. The implication of the judgement portrayed Sahara Reporters as having disregard for constituted authority.

Saraki hailed the verdict, saying it was a testament that the moral arc of the universe will always bend towards justice.

The statement read: “One thing is clear by the judgement, there are systems in place in our nation for all citizens to seek redress if they have been unfairly treated in any way.

“This judgement is a fulfillment of our promise that we will explore all legal means to seek redress for all the fabrications and mudslinging that Sahara Reporters has thrown at us over the years.

“This judgement demonstrates that our justice system can and will continue to protect the fundamental human rights of all citizens from being infringed by anyone. Moving forward, the purveyors of mischievous stories can learn from this precedent that has been set. The ruling by Justice Adeyinka Oyinloye, will serve as a deterrent to all those who profit by propagating ‘Fake News’ to blackmail innocent citizens or curry undue favours.

“This judgement is definitely not a victory for the Senate President alone. It is a victory for all the victims of the falsehood which Sahara Reporters daily dole out to rubbish the reputation of innocent Nigerians, many of whom either out of fear, lack of the patience to consistently pursue a court case for years or lack of belief in the ability of the system to give them justice decided to live with the injury to their reputation. The judgement is another vindication for our country and her solid enthronement of the rule of law as against the rule of men.

“Dr Saraki believes this judgement would provide inspiration and encouragement for all those whose reputations have been unduly and unnecessarily injured by SaharaReporters and its ilk who are purveyors of false news to seek redress through the courts.

“He sees the verdict of the High Court against Sahara Reporters as a positive development with the potential to reassure individuals and firms who would in future come under undeserved attack by  publications which spread falsehood aimed at maliciously casting them in bad light.

“The judgement provides a redeeming point for the noble profession of journalism which has as its  sacred, cardinal principle the pursuit of facts at all times and in all situations. The journalists and news media who have devoted themselves to the pursuit of truth but appear to be overwhelmed by those who trade in falsehood and sensationalism now have a reason to be proud that they are on the right path. That is another meaning Dr. Saraki gives to this judgement.

“However, the Senate President will  like to assure  all and sundry that he will not spare any legal efforts and expenses, both in Nigeria and abroad, necessary to recover every kobo of the cost awarded in his favour from the defendant.

“The  restitution from this judgement will be channeled to set up a Foundation whose aim will be to support pure and unadulterated investigative journalism and assist the families of real journalists that die in the line of duty. The money will  also be used to support genuine publications whose owners are struggling to pay salaries of workers or meet their ever rising running cost. Part of the money will also be channelled to help lawyers who have been providing pro bono services to  litigants, particularly, on cases bothering on enforcement of fundamental human rights.

” It should be noted that the methodical  and dogged manner  in which Dr. Saraki pursued the case despite the ceaseless barrage of false allegations thrown at him by the Sahara Reporters should assure all Nigerians that he maintains a solid belief in free press, free speech and responsible journalism and that he will do every thing legal to fight those who want to use journalism as a destructive, blackmail and oppressive instrument . This latter brand of journalism will not help our society and has no role to play in the emerging Nigeria.”

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