Courts Fines el-Rufai N50,000


…Over Threat To Lawyer’s Life, Liberty

The Kaduna High Court 9 presided by Hon. Justice Esther Lolo on Monday ordered Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna state to pay the sum of N50,000 as damages to Barrister Gloria Mabeiam Ballason over threat to the lawyer’s life.

The court also issued an order restraining the governor from “arresting, prosecuting and jailing” the lawyer for expressing her published opinion in a Nigerian newspaper.

Justice Esther Lolo’s ruling on the suit, Nos KDH/KAD/164/17 between Ballason and the governor, sparked off wild celebrations and delight across the state.

The applicant’s Lagos-based lawyers, Messrs Matthew Burkaa & Co had filed the case against the governor which was first mentioned on March 1, 2017.

The applicant’s lawyers told the court that Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna State had threatened to arrest and prosecute Gloria for her civic activities, including an opinion article she wrote on November 28, 2016 in her column in the Blueprint Newspaper.

According to them, the threat was issued on 17th January, 2017 by the Governor at the Kaduna State Government House when the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), A.B. Mahmud SAN and his team, including the applicant, went on a courtesy visit to the Governor.

In her ruling, Justice Lolo said contrary to the Governor’s denial, that indeed a threat had been issued, “which would put any reasonable person, who understands the authority of a Governor, in fear.”

She stated that there was a likelihood of a breach of right to life under section 33 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The court also affirmed that there has been an infringement of the dignity of the applicant under section 34 of the 1999 constitution.

Justice Lolo therefore ruled that there was a breach to the right of freedom of expression of the applicant and the Press under section 39 of the 1999 constitution, even as the Court noted that the article was not injurious and restrained the Governor from arresting the applicant on the basis of same.

The court therefore awarded damages in the sum of N50,000 with N10,000 as the cost of suit.

An array of prominent lawyers, numbering 36, lined up for Barrister Ballason in the case. Among them are Human Rights Lawyer, Festus Okoye Esq; Chairman Nigeria Bar Association, (NBA), Kaduna Branch, Ndasule Sherrif Esq; B.L. Aliyu Esq; and Timothy Kambai Esq. Others include: M.T. Mohammed Esq; Bavo Nyan; Mike Nwakanma Esq; Sule Shuaibu Esq; Reuben James Esq (Former 3rd national Vice President of the NBA); Mark Jacob (Former Attorney General of Kaduna State); and James Kanyip Esq.

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