Obasanjo appeals ‘contempt of court’ ruling over release of his new book

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has challenged the decision of an Abuja court indicting him for contempt after he defied an earlier ruling stopping him from releasing his autobiography.

The court ruled on Wednesday that the former leader was in contempt, and gave him 21 days to demonstrate why he should not be punished.

Mr. Obasanjo said he was dissatisfied with the ruling handed by the judge, Valentine Ashi, saying the court acted in error in the first place by barring him from publishing his new book.

The former president, through his counsels, led by Gboyega Oyewole, on Thursday challenged the ruling at the Court of Appeal Abuja, on 10 grounds.

First, Mr. Obasanjo said he had completed and published his book before the judge gave his initial order.
Mr. Obasanjo also rejected the court’s order to security agencies to seize all copies of the book released on Tuesday in Lagos.

“The learned trial Judge erred in law and acted without jurisdiction in directing the police and security agencies to seize the Defendant’s book ‘My Watch’ from any vendor and directing the Defendant to show cause within 21 days on why he should not be committed to prison for contempt of court,” his lawyer said.

The judge’s earlier ruling was to the effect that the book launch be put on hold as it contained details of a libel case already before a court.

The alleged libel case involves a drug trafficking allegation made by Mr. Obasanjo against Buruji Kashamu, a leader of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the southwest.

Mr. Kashamu had requested the court order to stop the release of the book, citing the case.

But the move is believed to have been a cover to block Mr. Obasanjo from making public some of his most scathing assessments of President Goodluck Jonathan, as contained in the book.

Mr. Kasahmu is an ally of President Jonathan.

On Tuesday, the former president defied the court order and proceeded with the book launch saying the judge acted in error and deserved to be sanctioned.

Justice Ashi, in a ruling Wednesday, gave Mr. Obasanjo 21 days to demonstrate why he should not be punished for going ahead to publish the book.

The court also ordered the Inspector General of Police, the Director General of the State Security Service (SSS) and the Comptroller of Customs to recover all the books all book stands, sales agents, vendors, the sea and airports and deposit them with the court’s registrar pending the determination of the case.

Mr. Ashi said it was immaterial that the book was published before the interim orders were made.

He said Mr. Obasanjo should not have in the first place published the book since the Kashamu case was already in court.

The judge also rejected claims by Mr. Obasanjo’s lawyer that Mr. Kashamu failed to produce the book to prove it contained libellous details.

The judge said it was the duty, instead, of the defendant, in whose custody the book was, to show the court that the plaintiff’s fear was misplaced.

He said Mr. Obasanjo’s failure to do so, showed he had something to hide.

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