Judge Orders All Copies Of OBJ's New Book, "My Watch" Seize Nationwide

A High Court in Abuja Wednesday, ordered the Inspector General of Police, Director-General of State Security Services and the Controller- General of the Nigeria Customs Services to confiscate former president, Olusegun Obasanjo`s book from public vendors.

The judge, Justice Valentine Ashi, gave the order after former President Obasanjo in defiance of the court order not to launch the new book went ahead to do so.

The judge said he was of the view that the defendant, having gone ahead to publish the book, should, therefore, show cause within 21 days of the order served on him for going ahead to publish the book, in spite of the ex-parte interim order made by the court on December 5 and a pending libel suit involving him (Obasanjo).

“The Inspector General of Police, Director-General of State Security Services and the Controller-General of Nigeria Customs Services are, hereby, directed to recover the book from sales vendors and book stores nationwide,” Justice Ashi ordered and also directed that the book should be kept with the registrar of the court pending the determination of the suit.

The judge also restrained the former president from further printing, publishing or circulating the book, “My Watch,” which he said touched on the subject matter of the suit before the court.

Justice Ashi had, on December 5, granted exparte interim orders, restraining Obasanjo from proceedings with plans to publish the book or have it published for him and fixed Wednesday 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.

On Wednesday, the judge took arguments from lawyer to the plaintiff/applicant, Alex Iziyon and defendant/respondent’s lawyer, Realwon Okpanachi, on the plaintiff’s motion for interlocutory injunctions, the defendant’s counter affidavit and motion for order to vacate the earlier granted interim orders.

Justice Ashi further held that it was immaterial that the book was published before the interim orders were made, saying that Obasanjo ought not to have published the book because he was aware of the partly-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 defendant, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo shall be given 21 days, from the day this order is served on him, to show cause, via affidavit, why he should not be punished for contempt committed by publishing and distributing for sale to the public, the book, “My Watch,” in plain disregard of the pendency of substantive the suit and the order of this court made on December 5, 2014, restraining him from doing so.

“The defendants, whether by himself, agents, servants, privies or whatever name called, is, hereby, restrained from further publication or offering for sale or distribution, in any way or manner, the book called “My Watch” or the like of the visual or written materials which contains a republication or statement extracted from the letter referred to by the plaintiff,” the judge said.

Justice Ashi also ordered the Inspector General of Police, Director-General of the Department of State Services and the Comptroller of Customs to recover the published book from all book stands, sales agents, vendors, the sea and airports and deposit them with his court’s registrar pending the determination of the substantive suit.”

He ordered that the enrolled orders of the court be served on all media houses in the country and be equally served on the defendant by publication in two national dailies.

The judge rejected argument by the defendants that the interim orders were wrongly made as the plaintiff failed to produce the book to show that it actually contained the alleged libelous materials.

Justice Ashi held that since the plaintiff said he came to court on the fear that Obasanjo was to publish a book that touches on the issue already before the court, it was the duty of the defendant, in whose custody the material was, to show the court that the plaintiff’s fear was misplaced.

“What I find difficult to understand is why the defendants went through the pains to depose to the ISBN number and other details about the book, which they said was published since November before the interim order was obtained on December 5, without supplying the court with copies of the book.

“This would have served to disprove the claim by the applicant/plaintiff that the book contains a reproduction of the letter, which formed the subject of the libel case before the court.

“The fact that the book was published in November, while the substantive case was still pending is contemptuous enough,” the judge said.

He said the failure on Obasanjo’s part to supply the court the book to convince the court that nothing relating to the subject of the pending libel case was contained in it (the book) suggested that he was hiding something.

The judge fixed January 13, 2015 for hearing on the substantive suit.

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