Saturday, April 20, 2024

Court dismisses suspended Adamawa REC Yunusa-Ari’s suit against his prosecution

Justice Omotosho, who described the suit as “highly unmeritorious,” declared that the “suit lacks merits.”

• February 9, 2024
Hudu Yunusa-Ari
Hudu Yunusa-Ari

The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Friday dismissed a suit filed by Hudu Yunusa-Ari, the suspended Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Adamawa, seeking protection against arrest, detention or prosecution by the police and others.

Justice James Omotosho, in a judgment, dismissed the suit for lacking in merit.

Mr Omotosho held that though Mr Yunusa-Ari, in his fundamental rights enforcement suit, made an elaborate show by trying to shield himself from being arrested, detained or prosecuted by security agencies, there was no ground where the court could have granted such immunity.

The judge agreed with the respondents that the suspended REC derailed on his allegations when he claimed that the respondents subjected him to media trial.

He observed that Mr Yunusa-Ari also claimed that the respondents breached his fundamental right by posting negative information about him on social media while insisting that he was not giving a fair hearing.

However, Mr Omotosho held that the issue of fair hearing had nothing to do with the publications of newsworthy matters by the media practitioners.

Besides, he said the applicant had not shown that he was dragged to any court or tribunal but only claimed that the respondents engaged in a media trial against him.

The suspended REC had, in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/563/2023, sued the Inspector-General of Police and the Nigeria Police Force as the first and second respondents.

Also joined in the suit filed by his lawyer, Jibrin Okutepa, SAN, are the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Director of the State Security Service (SSS) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as third to fifth respondents, respectively.

Mr Yunusa-Ari, who sought eight reliefs, prayed an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the respondents from arresting, detaining or causing his arrest or detention, harassment or intimidation for carrying out his lawful duties as the INEC REC in Adamawa during the supplementary governorship election held in the state on April 15, 2023.

He also sought an order directing the respondents to publish an apology in two national dailies “for the unlawful and unconstitutional media trials and negative press interviews, press statements/release, social media posts, publications, etc, against” him for carrying out his lawful duties as INEC REC.

He said he was the REC during the February 25, 2023 and March 18, 2023, general elections, including the supplementary poll on April 15, 2023.

He said after the general elections, he issued an interim report which raised a lot of criminal issues against security agencies and some INEC staff.

Mr Yunusa-Ari said the respondents only considered part of his report, leading to the conduct of a supplementary governorship and state house of assembly elections on April 15, 2023 in the state.

He averred that upon the conclusion of the supplementary poll, he wrote his report, and to his total shock and dismay, instead of investigating the persons named in his report and the issues raised in the said report, the respondents had continuously embarked on media trials against him.

Mr Yunusa-Ari alleged that without any valid judgment and conviction by a competent court, the respondents and their agents had made several press and social media pronouncements against him that he was guilty of a criminal offence in performing his lawful duties as INEC REC.

He described the acts as “a gross violation of his constitutional right to a fair hearing.”

But delivering the judgment, Justice Omotosho held that the only issue to determine in the case was whether any of the respondents breached Mr Yunusa-Ari’s fundamental rights.

The judge said though the fundamental rights are sacrosanct to every human being, the rights are not absolute.

He held that the suspended REC filed the suit quoting section 35 of chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution to prevent himself from being prosecuted for his role in the 2023 Adamawa governorship election.

“This court will not shield any person against investigation or prosecution if a prima facie case is established against such person,” the judge said.

Justice Omotosho, who described the suit as “highly unmeritorious,” declared that the “suit lacks merits.”

“This suit is hereby dismissed for lack of merit,” he said.


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