A FEDERAL High Court in Abuja has ordered Kogi state Governor Yahaya Bello to pay N500 million damages to Social Democratic Party’s (SDP) candidate in the November 11 governorship election in the state, Murtala Ajaka, for violating his rights.
In a ruling on Thursday, December 7, the trial judge, Inyang Ekwo, ordered Bello to tender a public apology to Ajaka “for the gross and unwarranted violation” of his rights,
In addition, Ekwo directed heads security agencies – the 2nd through 7th respondents – to guarantee Ajaka’s safety, including his property in Abuja, Kogi, and other parts of Nigeria.
Furthermore, The judge also issued an injunction prohibiting the security services from arresting, detaining, or harassing the applicant or threatening his safety or property.
On July 11, S.E. Aruwa, a senior advocate, filed the originating motion, with the reference number FHC/ABJ/CS/952/2023, on behalf of Ajaka, in which he requested protection from the court.
The first through sixth defendants in the suit filed by the SDP candidate were Bello, the commissioner of Police in Kogi, the Nigeria Police Force, the Inspector General of Police, the State Security Service (SSS), and the DG SSS.
As the seventh through eleventh respondents in the case, the applicant also joined the Chief of Defense Staff, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, the Director of DSS Command in Kogi, and the Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC),
Ajaka informed the court that he had previously run for the Kogi governorship election under the All Progressives Congress (APC) platform.
He claimed threat to his life by Bello because of his interest in the state governorship seat.
Besides, he said Bello’s plots grew when he dumped the All Progressives Party (APC), joined the SDP and received the party’s endorsement to run for governor on November 11.
He said even after switching from the APC to the SDP, he continued to feel intimidated by Bello’s overt and covert actions.
“That the 1st respondent has co-opted the 2nd to 11th respondents in threatening the right to life, liberty and association of the applicant,” his case reads.
In his first objection, Bello asked for two orders: to set aside the court’s previous July 13 judgment about lack of jurisdiction and strike out the lawsuit.
He contended that as the Attorney-General of Kogi was not a party to the complaint, the petitioner had not sued him in his official position.
In addition, he contended that the litigation was incompetent because the purported violation of Ajaka’s fundamental right and all the circumstances supporting the breach, according to his affidavit in support of the originating motion, occurred in the state.
In addition, the governor dismissed of Ajaka’s claim that he was running in the APC primary election.
Similarly, Bello refuted any threat to kill Ajaka for not following any instructions.
The governor stated that the APC candidate, who eventually won the election, Usman Ododo, participated in the APC primary, and denied he appointed Ododo as a successor.
He claimed that since the second through eleventh responders were all federal entities that are not under his direct supervision, he was unable to use them to jeopardize Ajaka’s right to life, liberty, and association.
Justice Ekwo, in his ruling, stated that he had discovered that the governor had made no specific allegations throughout the entire affidavit.
Bello’s counter-affidavit, in his opinion, was extremely weak and did not successfully refute Ajaka’s allegation.
“It is not hard to see that the 1st respondent was acting clever when he sent his aide de camp to make a report to the same Police that acted in concert with him at the scene of the shooting, after preventing the applicant (Ajaka) from entering Lokoja,” he said.
He ruled that the incident of June 3, which was the focus of Ajaka’s complaint, could not be addressed by any of the respondent’s affidavit evidence.
“In awarding damages in this case, I will take into account the trauma of the applicant of being shot at by those whose statutory duty is to protect the citizens, acting under the command of the 1st respondent (Bello) who is statutorily the chief security officer of a state for a cause that is manifestly unlawful but inhuman,” the judge stated.