The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola is claiming N2billion in a defamation suit against the Chief Executive Officer of Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Ltd, Leno Olaitan Adesanya over some alleged libelous publications made in two national dailies against him.
In a suit before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Fashola accused Adesanya of making false and downgrading publications against him in The Guardian and Thisday newspapers of January 11 and 16, 2019 in respect of the Mambilla Power Project.
Adesanya in the said publications, accused Fashola of frustrating the completion of the Mambila Power Project and engaging in acts of corruption in relation to the project while serving as Minister of Power, Works and Housing.
The Ministers stated that the advertorial publications, captioned: Mambilla Power Project: Open letter to Mr. Babatunde Fasola,” and sponsored by Adesanya. “amounted to nothing less than character assasination with a view to achieving damaging effects against.
The Minister, who was present in court in his statement of claim, added that Adesanya and the two newspapers, by the publications in which his name was deplored, portrayed him as a dishonest and disloyal political operative, and a greedy thieving political manipulator, unworthy of his office as minister or any other public office.
He further stated that the publications portrayed him as “a dirty politician who would take beneficial steps in governance only when it is for his personal advantage even at the risk of causing his country and political leader great harm.
“None of the allegations made against the claimant in the offending publications are true.
“The defendants published the disparaging and defamatory materials with the main purpose of destroying the claimant’s credit and reputation by publishing invented untrue and malicious falsehood about him.”
Fashola, who said he has suffered embarrassment, humiliation, among others, as a result of the false publications, wants the court to award N2b damages against the defendants for damages for the libellous publications, and aggravated and exceptional damages.
He also wants an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants and their agents from further publishing the offending materials or any other materials relating to the claimant.
Fashola, who equally wants the court to order the defendants to publish retraction of the damaging publications, is also seeking an order compelling the defendants to offer him a properly worded unreserved apology for the libellous advertorials.
While Adesanya and Thisday are yet to respond to the suit, The Guardian, in its statement of defence, denied any wrong doing.
The Guardian, while pleading qualified privilege, said it acted within its constitutional responsibilities, including the duty to inform the public on matters relating to the conduct, activities, operations and policies of the state, its ministries, paraststals and agencies.
It argued that the publication referred to by Fashola “is a fair and accurate publication of a rejoinder about issues relating to the management and/or administration of the Mambilla Power Project by the claimant as the Minster of Power.”
The newspaper added that since the Mambilla Power Project is being executed with public funds, the publication complained about was made in furtherance of its moral, professional and legal duty to inform the public on matters of public interest.
The Guardian stated that it did not hold Fashola in malice or in contempt and has never made any publication or done anything against him to cast him in bad light.
At the mention of the case, Fashola’s lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Charles Edosomwan, noted that it was only the second defendant (The Guardian) that had filed any response in the case.
Justice Sylvester Oriji noted the first and third defendants were still within the required seven days to file their responses.
Justice Oriji subsequently adjourned till December 6 for hearing of a pending application filed by Fashola.