High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Wuse Zone 2, Abuja, on Wednesday held that former President Olusegun Obasanjo was in contempt of court for flouting orders restraining him from among others, publishing his autobiography – “My Watch.”
Justice Valentine Ashi, in a ruling gave Obasanjo 21 days (from the day of service of the court’s orders on him) to explain cause why he should not be punished for contempt for going ahead to publish the book despite the ex-parte interim order made by the court on December 5 and a pending libel suit involving him (Obasanjo).
The judge restrained him from further publishing, printing or offering for sale, the book, which content touches on the subject matter before the court.
Justice Ashi had on December 5 granted ex-parte interim orders, restraining Obasanjo from proceeding with plans to publish the book or have it published for him, and fixed December 10 as the return date.
Despite the court’s interim orders, Obasanjo reportedly made public presentation of the book on Tuesday in Lagos, arguing that the book had been published before the court was misled into making the orders.
The judge took arguments from lawyer to the plaintiff/applicant, Alex Iziyon (SAN) and defendant/respondent’s lawyer, Realwon Okpanach on the plaintiff’s motion for interlocutory injunctions, the defendant’s counter affidavit and motion for order to vacate the earlier granted interim orders.
Ruling, Justice Ashi held that it was wrong for Obasanjo to have proceeded to publish the book despite the fact that a libel suit, which subject matter formed part of the content of the book, was still pending before the court and that the orders he made on December 5 was still pending.
He further held that it was immaterial that the book was published before the interim orders were made.
He said Obasanjo ought not to have publish the book because he was aware of the part-heard libel suit relating to the letter he wrote to President Goodluck Jonathan, accusing a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Buruji Kashamu, of being a fugitive wanted in the United States.
“The fact that the book was published in November is irrelevant. As long as the substantive suit is not yet determined, no party is entitled to publish or comment on material facts that are yet to be decided on by the court.
“I hold the defendant, not only in contempt of the court, but to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt and ordered to undo what he has wrongly done,” the judge said.