Obasanjo's Biography: HURIWA Condemns Court Order

Asks NJC To Caution Presiding Judge

By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Vexed by what it calls an attempt by the court of law to dabble into the arena of partisan politics and muzzle freedom of expression through a contrived court order, a democracy friendly Non-Governmental organization - HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA [HURIWA] has strongly condemned the Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Valentine Ashi which reportedly gave an exparte injunction purportedly stopping the publication of the latest book by the former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo titled- 'MY WATCH'.

In the considered thinking of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA [HURIWA] any Nigerian who feels that his/her reputation is tarnished by the contents of the book written by erstwhile President Obasanjo should do any of the two options: go to court to file a case of libel or do your version of the story told in this latest book by Olusegun Obasanjo.

In a statement to journalists and jointly endorsed by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA [HURIWA] has therefore called on the Chairman of the National Judicial Council [NJC] and the Chief Justice of Nigeria Justice Mahmud Muhammad to immediately activate mechanism to clean up the Aegean stable in the judiciary and stop judges from issuing baseless exparte orders which has created spectacular public image deficit for the Nigerian Judicial system over the past couple of years.

The Rights group which take very robust exception to the attempt by the Abuja High Court to stop the exercise by the former Head of State Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of his constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of expression and Right to fair hearing as enshrined in chapter four of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria through the issuance of an inexplicable and heavily one- sided court injunction also stated that any court's attempt and/or action that appears to be anti-intellectual should be rejected and jettisoned for that is an attempt through the backdoors to return Nigeria to the disgraceful days of military dictatorship and tyranny.

Faulting the belated injunction from the Abuja High Court which reportedly emanated as soon as the author has made every arrangement to publicly present the book, HURIWA argued strongly that it is immoral and disgusting for a court of law to involve itself in a bitter intra-party squabbles by seeking to halt the publication and circulation of a book written by a Nigerian who has the unfettered fundamental right to freedom of expression. HURIWA said the enjoyment of the fundamental freedom of expression is the very basis for the existence of democracy and the principle of the rule of law. The Rights group also stated that it was inconceivable that a judge could have attempted to stop an act that was already completed just as it asked any Nigerian whose reputation is reportedly injured and/or tarnished by the contents of the book to file a proper and appropriate libel case in the competent court of law rather than engage in an exercise in futility.

HURIWA stated thus; ''We are all living witnesses to the gross abuses that exparte motions were subjected to by politicians only in the recent past and these frequently abused privileged orders of the court which is seen largely as a professional ambush against respondents who ought to be properly served and put on notice and so it is imperative that the hierarchy of the nation's judiciary takes immediate and effective action to check the abuse of exparte applications by litigants.

We have not forgotten that it was also by the abuse of exparte application for an injunction from an Abuja High Court obtained by mid -night by the notorious Association for a better Nigeria [ABN] that truncated the planned transition to civil rule during the General Babangida's regime when the now martyred Icon of democracy Chief Moshood Kashimawa Abiola was coasting home with victory in the popularly acclaimed free and fair Presidential election of June 12th 1993.

We completely reject any court injunction that seeks to keep Nigerians perpetually in information and intellectual darkness regarding the undercurrents of our politics especially in the contemporary times. Indeed the court of law should give judgments that will promote the exercise of the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms as encapsulated in the nation's supreme body of laws. The Chief Justice of Nigeria must call this Abuja High court Judge to order.

How come he is asking security operatives to stop the circulation of a written work that has already reached thousands of homes? Does he intend to assist the security operatives to embark on massive illegal hunt of Nigerian readers and probably invade the sacred privacy and homes of the thousands of Nigerians who already have bought copies? A competent court of law should not dish out orders that will ridicule the judiciary in the eyes of members of the civilised international community''.