A High Court in Abuja has dismissed a N3billion libel suit filed by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, against the Ekiti State Governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose’s spokesman, Lere Olayinka and the Chairman, Information Committee of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Dr Samuel Omotoso.
Justice A. O. Ebong dismissed the suit for lack of jurisdiction, saying; “Based on the facts as pleaded by the plaintiff in this suit, I am unable to accept that there was defamation of the plaintiff (Fayemi) in the FCT, as no publication of the defamatory materials is shown to have taken place within the FCT. For that reason, this court cannot exercise jurisdiction in respect of the instant suit. The case is consequently struck out for want of territorial jurisdiction.”
Fayemi, who is also a former governor of Ekiti State had filed Suit Number CV/577/2016 before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, claiming that the duo of Olayinka and Omotosodants brought disrepute to his name through statements allegedly made by them on July 6, 2016, during a live programme tagged Ejiire on Ekiti State Television, which also aired on cable network, Startimes.
Fayemi, who accused Olayinka of saying that he (Fayemi) illegally collected N5 billion from Ecobank in the name of Fountain Holdings for a sham road construction, sought payment of N3 billion for “aggravated damages” he claimed was caused him by the defendants.
His lawyer, Rafiu Balogun, said through the alleged statements, the defendants (Olayinka and Omotoso) portrayed him (Fayemi) as a “very corrupt public office-holder and fraudulent person who siphoned public funds at the detriment of Ekiti citizens while serving as governor.”
However, Olayinka and Omotoso had through their counsel; Ola Olanipekun (SAN) filed notice of preliminary objection, praying the court to strike out the suit for want of jurisdiction and/or competence.
Olanipekun said; “It is trite that a court in one State cannot hear and determine a matter which lies exclusively within the jurisdiction of another State.
“The cause of action and/or the wrong complained of by the plaintiff occurred in Ekiti State which is clearly outside the jurisdiction of this honorable court.
“The 1st and 2nd defendants in the suit reside and carry out their businesses in Ekiti State which is outside the jurisdiction of this court.”
Agreeing with the defendants’ preliminary objection, Justice Ebong said it was incumbent on Fayemi to have shown that the statements in question were published within the FCT. He went further to state that for the court to have jurisdiction, the plaintiff (Fayemi) must show, not merely that the defamatory matter was published to the whole world, but that someone within the FCT has read or watched the alleged defamatory statements.
Responding to the judgment, Olayinka said; “It is funny that someone like Dr Kayode Fayemi, under whose government Ekiti treasury was wantonly looted could still have the effrontery to go to court for libel. I wished he was put in the witness box and cross examined so that pertinent questions bordering on his mis-governance of Ekiti State will be asked.”
Also in his own reaction, Dr Omotoso said; “That Fayemi could still go to court claiming that his character, which he lacked in the first place was assassinated show that those claiming to be fighting corruption in Abuja are just wasting their time, or at best, fighting the opposition. In saner climes, Fayemi won’t be walking the streets free for superintending over the looting of Ekiti treasury.”