Rights enforcement: court reserves judgment in suit by The Nation staff

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Lagos  –   A Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday ordered the return of a case file in a suit by two staff of The Nation Newspaper seeking enforcement of their rights.

The applicants are Vintage Press Ltd. (publisher of The Nation Newspaper), and two of its employees, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, an Editor, and a Correspondent, Mr Imam Bello.

The respondent in the suit is the Senate.

They had filed the suit seeking an order of the court restraining their appearance before a Senate Committee over a publication in the dailies.

The suit which was filed before Justice Mohammed Yunusa had been adjourned for judgment, but was stalled due to the transfer of Yunusa from Lagos division.

On Thursday, Counsel to the applicants, Mr Wahab Shittu, informed Justice Dagat about a fiat issued by the Chief Judge of the Court for the former judge to return and deliver his judgment.
He then sought an adjournment to a convenient date for Justice Yunusa to deliver the judgment.

Counsel to the respondent, Mr George Ogunyomi in his response said they had written to the chief judge and prayed him to withdraw the fiat.

He said that the chief judge had replied and noted their complaint, but said they were free to raise the issues before Justice Yunusa.

Reacting to the submissions of the counsels, justice Dagat said that he could not adjourn the case to any particular date since he did not know when Justice Yunusa would return to Lagos.

“Since there is a fiat, the file is hereby remitted to Justice Yunusa for further action,” he ruled.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that in their affidavit, the applicants averred that the Senate had on August 4, 2015, invited Omotoso and Bello to appear before it without failure.

They averred that the invitation was over a story entitled; “Motion: 22 APC Northern senators ‘working against Buhari” which was published on July 30, 2015.
They also averred that the respondent again wrote them on Aug. 11, 2015 threatening to invoke Section 89 (1) (D) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to compel the applicants’ appearance.

Justice Yunusa had in an interim order, restrained the respondents from requesting the applicants to produce any papers, notes or other documents in respect of the story.

The judge had also restrained the respondents from issuing a warrant to compel the applicants’ attendance before the Senate Committee set up to investigate the publication.

The applicants further contended that the respondents were attempting to gag the press through intimidation and by demanding that they disclose the source of their story.

However, in a counter-affidavit, the respondent contended that the said invitation was a mere invitation, adding that the respondent was not a law enforcement agency.

The respondent also sought an order striking out the suit for being premature, pre-emptive and speculative.
It argued that the applicants were attempting to prevent the respondents from carrying out their constitutional duties through the suit.

Judgment has been reserved to a date that will be communicated to parties involved in the suit. (NAN)

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