A former Chief of Army Staff, Azubuike Ihejirika, has instituted a suit at the Abuja High Court against the Australian hostage negotiator, Stephen Davies, who accused him of sponsoring Boko Haram insurgency in the North East Nigeria.
In the suit filed by his team of lawyers, Nnoruka Udechukwu, C.U. Ilegbune, and Ben Anechebe, all Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN, Mr. Ihejirika is demanding N100 billion as aggravated damages for defamation.
Mr. Davies had in August accused the retired general, a former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, an unnamed senior official of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, as well as a man based in Cairo, Egypt, of being among the top sponsors of the Islamic insurgents.
The former army chief has denied the allegation.
Mr. Ihejirika, who retired military service in January, said that as a result of the allegation, “he has suffered grievous wrong and he has been exposed to scandal, odium, ridicule, humiliation and his character, credit and reputation brought into disrepute, both in Nigeria and abroad”.
His lawyers have applied to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to enable them serve Mr. Davis, who lives in Perth, Australia, with the court’s processes after securing an order of court to serve the process abroad.
Nigeria and Australia are members of the Commonwealth of Nations and a special procedure has to be followed when serving court processes on defendant residing in a country that is a member of the group other than the country where the writ is issued.
Mr. Ihejirika, apart from the N100 billion damages, is also asking for an order of perpetual injunction restraining Mr. Davis or his agents from further making comments that are defamatory about him.
He is also seeking an order for the Australian to immediately publish a full and unreserved retraction and apology in the front page of THISDAY Newspaper for making a false malicious and libelous publication.
Mr. Ihejirika said that he served the military meritoriously before retiring and that he had a successful and unblemished career in the army.
Mr. Ihejirika said, “On or about the 28th day of August 2014, the Defendant granted a Multimedia and Television interview broadcast to AriseTv, which aired in Nigeria, particularly in Abuja, and subsequently published by numerous newspapers and media houses; wherein the defendant when asked during the AriseNews segment of the interview to name the sponsors of the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, falsely and maliciously spoke of the plaintiff in the following words, to wit:
“’There is the former Chief of Army Staff, retired January, or actually sacked by the President he is another sponsor. I could give you the names if you like but I have no fear that these were very confident and it is in fact Boko Haram senior commanders who have been naming them.'”
The retired general stated that the spoken words and publication in their ordinary meaning were understood by reasonable members of the society who listened/watched the said AriseNews broadcast in Abuja to mean that he sponsored Boko Haram, a terrorist sect to wage war, insurrection or insurgency against Nigeria.
Mr. Ihejirika said the publication suggested that he was sacked by President Goodluck Jonathan even though he retired and had not committed any offence.
He also said those who listened to the broadcast had the belief that he did not conduct himself in accordance with the oath of allegiance and service as a soldier and senior office in the army.
The former army chief, in the affidavit he deposed to, said he had been exposed to scandal, odium, ridicule, humiliation while his character, credit and reputation had been brought into disrepute, both in Nigeria and abroad.