Justice Iyabo Akinkugbe of the Lagos State High Court on Thursday fixed May 27 to hear a N150 billion libel suit filed by the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, against African Independent Communication (AIT).
The court adjourned the case after counsel to AIT, Jeffery Kadiri asked for more time to file his response to the suit and other applications already filed by the former Lagos State Governor Tinubu.
Tinubu had instituted the N150 billion suit against AIT for allegedly peddling false accusations about his personality in the documentary titled, “Lion of Bourdilion.”
According to the politician, the documentary was politically sponsored to tarnish his reputation in the eyes of the populace.
The judge had on April 1 granted an interlocutory injunction restraining the AIT from further airing the documentary, pending the determination of the libel suit.
During Thursday’s proceedings, Tinubu’s lawyer, Ayodele Adedipe, informed the court that the claimant had filed Forms 17 and 18 which had been served on the defendant.
Responding, Kadiri admitted that the defendant had received the processes but was still within the 42 days period to respond to the applications.
Kadiri noted that the defendant intended to file a counter-claim and join issues with the claimant, adding that a long adjournment was needed to ensure that all processes could get into the court’s file.
Justice Akinkugbe consequently granted his request and adjourned the matter for further direction to enable parties proceed to the stage Pre-Trial Conference where they can attempt to settle the matter without going to full trial.
Tinubu’s lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) had told the court that the documentary showcased various properties and companies across Lagos purportedly owned by him and he was described as “Nigeria’s biggest landlord”.
Olanipekun said the programme also claimed that Tinubu was “charged for narcotics” in 1993 in the United States.
He alleged that the documentary was politically sponsored to tarnish Tinubu’s reputation in the eyes of the populace.
Olanipekun had therefore asked the court to award N150 billion as damages against AIT for tarnishing his client’s reputation.
Responding, Chief Mike Ozekhome, lead counsel to AIT, had argued that the content of the documentary were facts which had been in the public domain for over two decades.
According to him, these were published independently prior to the broadcast and had remained unchallenged till date.
He further contented that Tinubu was a former senator, two-time governor of Nigeria’s most populous state and the leader of the APC which claims to be anti-corruption.
Ozekhome said AIT had a responsibility to its audience to scrutinise their public officers, adding that Tinubu had not shown how the said documentary had damaged his reputation.