Court quashes suspended Adamawa REC’s moves to stall arrest, trial
A Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed a suit filed by the suspended Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Adamawa, Hudu Yunusa-Ari, seeking among others, to bar security agencies from arresting, detaining, and prosecuting him in respect of his conduct during the last governorship election in the state.
In a judgment on Friday, Justice James Omotosho held that the fundamental rights enforcement suit he filed was without merit and proceeded to dismiss it.
Justice Omotosho noted that while Yunusa-Ari made efforts to shield himself from being arrested, detained or prosecuted by security agencies, he failed to provide the legal basis on which the court could act to grant him such immunity.
The judge faulted the applicant’s claim that the respondents subjected him to a media trial.
Listed as respondents in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/563/2023 are the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), the Attorney-General of Federation (AGF), the Director of Department of State Services (DSS) and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Justice Omotoso equally faulted Yunusa-Ari’s claims that his right to a fair hearing was breached by the respondents who allegedly posted negative information against him on social media.
The judge said the issue of fair hearing had nothing to do with publications of newsworthy matters by the media practitioners in order not to fail in their responsibility of dissemination of information to the society.
He added: “News reported by the media is not a court of law and that the media, as the fourth estate of the realm, must be free to report at all times.”
The judge held that the applicant had not shown that he was taken before any court or tribunal, but only claimed that the respondents engaged in a media trial against him.
Justice Omotoso noted that although fundamental rights are sacrosanct to every human being, the rights are not absolute; the court will not shield any citizen against investigation or prosecution when the need arises.
He said: “This court will not shield any person against investigation or prosecution if a prima facie case is established against such person.”
Yunusa-Ari had prayed the court for eight reliefs, including 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 equally 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.’’
The applicant stated that he was the REC in Adamawa State during the February 25, 2023 and March 18, 2023, general elections, including the supplementary poll on April 15, 2023.
Yunusa-Ari said after the general elections, he issued an interim report that raised a lot of criminal issues against security agencies and some INEC staff.
He 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.
The suspended REC stated 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.
Yunusa-Ari claimed that the respondents and their agents, without any valid judgment and conviction by a competent court, had made several press and social media pronouncements against him that he was guilty of a criminal offence in the performance of his lawful duties as INEC REC.
The applicant said the acts amounted to a gross violation of his constitutional right to a fair hearing.