Bola Tinubu, a national leader of the All Progressives Congress, has instituted a case against the African Independent Television over a documentary on him aired on the station.
Mr. Tinubu brought an ex-parte motion before a Lagos High Court seeking an order of interim injunction restraining AIT whether by itself, agents, privies and or other persons from producing or continuing to broadcast, airing, or continuing to reproduce a documentary against Mr. Tinubu.
The motion also sought to restrain the TV station from continuing the broadcast of the documentary, which it started airing on March 1st and had been repeating daily, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice dated 5th March, 2015.
The motion further noted that damages would not adequately compensate applicant/claimant if the ex-parte order was not granted and prayed that the rest of the suit may be extinguished if the ex-parte order was not granted.
It also noted that there was real, imminent and urgent threat and danger of continuing to decimate the person and integrity of Mr. Tinubu by AIT by continuing to air the “offensive” broadcast if the ex-parte motion was not granted.
Wole Olanipekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and Tunji Abayomi are part of Mr. Tinubu’s legal team.
Last Monday, Mr. Tinubu had written to Daar Communications Limited, the owners of AIT, threatening to sue it for airing a documentary he deemed defamatory “in all respects”.
The hour-long documentary, which has been airing every day since March 1 at 11 p.m., titled “Unmasking the Real Tinubu” showcased various properties and companies across Lagos purportedly owned by Mr. Tinubu, described as “Nigeria’s biggest landlord”.
The programme also claimed that Mr. Tinubu was “charged for narcotics” in 1993 in the United States.
Mr. Tinubu gave the TV station 24 hours to apologize and retract the publication and demanded N20 billion as damages.
“We are surprised that your media house – and we hold you responsible for the documentary – lacks simple ability to know what is justifiable for publication or understand that freedom of expression does not include deliberate defamation of character,” Mr. Tinubu said in the letter by his lawyer, Mr. Abayomi.
“More disturbing is your representation that the said documentary was ‘sponsored’ without disclosing the ‘sponsors’. You cannot under law, hide under media freedom or freedom of expression to maliciously injure a citizen’s reputation.”
AIT responded swiftly describing Mr. Tinubu’s claims and demands as “laughable,” noting that the station was only carrying out its constitutional responsibility to uphold the fundamental objectives of the constitution.
“Daar Communications is therefore demanding a complete withdrawal of the letter under reference, which must be given wide publicity as that accorded the letter from the chambers of Tunji Abayomi,” the station said through their lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
“The media company demands an apology to be published in at least four leading national newspapers and four television stations, which must include NTA, Channels, and AIT.
“The sum of one hundred billion Naira representing aggravated, punitive and exemplary damages for the irreparable injury inflicted on AIT is also being demanded.”
Despite Mr. Tinubu’s earlier threat, AIT continued to air the documentary, frequently igniting public discourse on the topic on social media and other fora.
The APC leader went ahead to petition the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, urging them to sanction AIT for violating Nigeria’s broadcasting code.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has since been update to correct an error which suggested that the Court has granted accelerated hearing on the case. We have since understood that is not the case.