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Published On: Wed, Oct 24th, 2018

Looters’ list: Indicted persons free to sue for libel, slander, court rules

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By Vivian Okejeme Abuja

Justice Olukayode Adeniyi of a Federal Capital Territory High Court sitting at Apo, has refused to declare that the alleged looters’ list released by the Federal Government amounted to breach of right of presumption of innocence of the named persons.
However, the court, ruled that any person aggrieved has right to seek redress via libel suit for possible injury the list caused him.
Dismissing the suit instituted t by Chairman of DAAR Communications Plc, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, the court held the suit is lacking in merit.
The plaintiff, had in the suit, prayed court to declare that the inclusion of his name in the alleged looters’ list, amounted to gross violation of his right to presumption of innocence as enshrined in section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
He, (Dokpesi) had insisted that the list was highly prejudicial to his ongoing trial before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The court held that the alleged looters’ list that was disclosed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, does not carry any force of law.
The court stressed that the pronouncement of the Minister, who is neither a judge nor the prosecutor in the criminal charge FG initiated against Dokpesi, lacked legal impetus.
He held that it is not capable of affecting the Plaintiff’s right to be presumed innocent of allegations against him, pending the conclusion of his trial.
Delivering the judgement the Judge held “What is more, the Defendant (Mohammed) has no statutory power to declare the Plaintiff guilty of a charge pending in a trial court, hence there is no need to declare the statement credited to him as null and void.
“The comment made by the Defendant was a mere allegation by a third-party which cannot be used by any court to convict, because it has no force of law”.
The judge said the remedy open to Dokpesi, lay in a different cause of action, saying section 155 of the Penal Code could be invoked to report the Minister’s statement to the Police.
“What the defendant made was an allegation of commission of a crime.
The Plaintiff can at best, report the Defendant to the police for remedy.
“The fact is that contrary to the claim of the Plaintiff that there Defendant has declared him guilty of committing a crime, it is only a court of competent jurisdiction that can declare him guilty.
“In this case, I have not seen any merit and it is hereby dismissed with no order as to cost because the presumption of innocence of the Plaintiff under section 36(5) of the constitution has not in any way been breached by the Defendant.”

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