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Court throws out publisher’s suit against Sylva, others

By Samuel Oyandongha
Yenagoa — A Yenagoa High Court, yesterday, threw out a suit instituted by a publisher, Mr. Francis Dufugha, seeking to enforce his fundamental rights against abuse from Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State, his aides and the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta.

Dufugha, the publisher of the popular local tabloid, Niger Delta Herald, was earlier in the year allegedly assaulted by security aides and soldiers attached to Bayesla State Governor at a public function in Yenagoa.

The embattled publisher was alleged to have taken the shots of the governor with his mobile phone which the security agents conside-red offensive and was manhandled and bundled out of the venue by policemen and soldiers.

Dufugha had applied to the court to grant a restraining order on Bayelsa State governor and his agents from further harassing, assaulting or intimidating him in the course of performing his duties as a journalist in the state.

But the presiding judge, Justice Doris Adokeme, held that Chief Sylva could not be sued in his private capacity as the governor of Bayelsa State.

“The motion on notice was brought against no juristic persons and is hereby struck out.
“The motion on notice was filed against non juristic persons. The commander of the JTF cannot be sued in his personal capacity,” the judge said.

According to the court, Sylva is covered by Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution which provided immunity for state governors, not withstanding the provisions of sub section C of the law, adding that the JTF was a floating body created by the government and not backed by any statute.

The court was of the view that it was the parent body of the JTF, the Nigerian Army, that could sue and be sued, adding that Dufugha should have sued the Army.

The court noted that after its mission, the JTF might be disbanded by its parent body.

The judge, however, disagreed with the respondents that the suit was an abuse of the court process and also did not agree with the argument that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

Justice Adokeme, who had in an earlier ruling given Dufugha leave to enforce his fundamental rights against Sylva, his security aides and the JTF, noted that the matter had to be dealt with dispatch after hearing the prayers of counsel to Dufugha.

“The applicant is hereby granted leave to apply for the enforcement of his fundamental rights,” the judge ruled.
She had, however, declined Dufugha’s prayers for the court to restrain Bayelsa State governor or his agents from further harassing, assaulting or intimidating him, pending the time the court would determine the motion on notice.

“There is nothing to show that the applicant is being harassed since the incident occurred, the application is hereby refused,” the judge declared.


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