Journalists, CSOs criticise Saraki’s court order freezing Sahara Reporters’ bank accounts

Omoyele Sowore
Omoyele Sowore

An order of a Kwara State High Court which blocked bank accounts linked to an online media platform, Sahara Reporters, about four months ago has been criticised by a coalition of media and Civil Society Organisations, CSOs.

The group, Coalition for Press Freedom and Whistleblower Protection (CPFWP) made their position known in a joint statement signed by 15 of its members on Wednesday.

It further condemned delays in the judicial process to reverse the order.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, instituted the case in Ilorin, where he ruled for eight years as governor, accusing Sahara Reporters of publishing defamatory content against his personality.

The four stories at issue, which included news and opinion contents, were published between September and December 2015, court filings published by Vanguard Newspapers showed.

In a Suit No. KWS / 23 / 2017, the court had awarded N4 billion against the publisher, Omoyele Sowore, and his medium, SaharaReporters, who were the defendants/respondents in cases of libel brought before it.

Consequently, a judge, Adeyinka Oyinloye, had issued an order to the United Bank for Africa, UBA and Guaranty Trust Bank, GTB, bankers of Mr. Sowore and Sahara Reporters, to seize all funds held in a string of accounts associated with the defendants.

The judge also said Sahara Reporters and Mr. Sowore must pay 10 per cent (N400 million) interest on the N4 billion monthly until both the principal damages and accrued interests are finally cleared.

Mr. Sowore had later approached the high court presided by Mr. Oyinloye through Falana and Falana Chambers to set aside its judgement.

At the resumed hearing on September 14, PREMIUM TIMES gathered that journalists were attacked, including other supporters of the online medium.
The groups in the statement condemned the development warning judicial officers to exercise restraint in pronouncing judgments in libel cases.

The coalition expressed worry that every attempt by Sahara Reporters to legally redress the N4 billion judgment awarded against it had been frustrated.

“We are also concerned about the abuse of the judicial process which has led to the freezing of the bank accounts of Sahara Reporters Media Foundation, a completely different legal entity from Sahara Reporters, which has not been accused of any offence, is not a party to any judicial proceedings and against which there is no pending judgment debt or court order,” it said.

“It has been four months since the judgement has been given against Sahara Reporters Media Group (New York) and four months since the account of Sahara Reporters Media Foundation (Nigeria) has been unjustly frozen.

“We are concerned that efforts to move the matter forward has been met with a series of adjournment which now seems more like a delay tactic to ensure that the work of Sahara Reporters Media Foundation is stalled.

“While we recognise the right of Mr. Saraki or any aggrieved party to sue a news medium, the turn of events in this particular issue suggest a twist that is more than meet the eye.

“We condemn any attempt to muscle and intimidate the press through direct or indirect means, as in this case. Any redress sought against any perceived adverse media content should be done within the natural ambit of the law. Media is not above the law and it should also not be muscled through any extra-legal means.

“We call on relevant judicial bodies to closely monitor this case and investigate the contentious judgment and the resultant garnishee order.”


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  • abodes_124

    I do hope they unfreeze Sahara Reporters account. At the same time i do hope it serves as wake up call to the editors of the paper to do proper investigative journalism and separate facts which they publish from opinion which any opinion writer is entitled to.

    • newday

      An occupant of a high public office is not entitled to protection under the libel clause..

      • Tijani

        @newday You are wrong. Every individual has a right to protect his/her name or reputation.

        In fact Saraki should seek a garnishee order on all those who signed this disgraceful statement in contempt of a court of competent jurisdiction’s decision. They can help that blackmailing rogue Sowore pay the 4 billion naira judgement debt.

        Instead of openly begging and apologising for Sowore’s scurrilous defamation they are even forming condemnation. I support press freedom, investigative journalism, but these charlatans should be locked up for supporting criminal libel and wilful malicious defamation.

        Is Sowore a member of NUJ? Can any of these signatories media outfits finances withstand forensic financial scrutiny? Why didn’t they speak out when EFCC was freezing the accounts of media houses that received money from ONSA until they started making refunds instalmentally?

        Saraki sued Sowore in a court of competent jurisdiction. If Sowore has any lawful response the arena is clear, and it’s not by any congregation of brown envelope charlatan journalists hastily cobbling themselves into an ambulance tyre repairing coalition.

        Saraki has been maligned and defamed beyond fair comment standards by Sowore and Sahara Reporters, for years, Let the law prevail.

        Besides which, Sowore is a tax evading money launderer.

        • So oju abe niko

          You claim, “Sowore is a tax evading money launderer”, has he been laundering money for Saraki? You are complaining about libel, but that hasn’t stopped you from making unfounded libelous claims. Just so you know, there is no full anonymity on the internet.

          • absam777

            He is the voice of Saraki on the internet. What do you expect from Saraki ? Nothing but corrupt thinking. Competent court of jurisdiction my foot. A libel case that was judged with chambers bribery.

          • Tijani

            Let Sowore come and sue me for libel, I will provide factual evidence. Happily. It’s about time to teach rag journalists some professional ethics along with the power of forensic accounting. Sowore is a tax evading money launderer and forger, not to mention his malicious occupation as a persistent repeat offender in defamation and libel. Thank goodness for global mutual assistance treaties. Saraki’s case against Sowore is no big deal, however since Sowore has repeatedly and obsessively focused his nefarious attacks on Saraki, it makes the perfect subject evidence to track Sowore’s activities.

          • Tijani

            Unfounded? Not at all. Sowore is a tax evading money launderer, both in Nigeria and in USA. My colleagues here at FIRS are very interested in his activities.

      • abodes_124

        Please try not to open yourself to ridicule

  • Mayo

    Premium Times – this article’s headline is highly biased. What do you mean by ‘Saraki’s court order’? Was Saraki the Judge? A court of competent jurisdiction ruled against your colleagues Sahara Reporters and Sahara Reporters have appealed the judgement. Until a superior court rules otherwise, the judgement stands valid unless you have proof showing that Saraki ‘bought’ the judgement. It is sensationalism like this article’s headline that made Saraki sue Sahara Reporters.

    • abodes_124

      Do we ever learn. No . We all cheered for Sahara reporters when they first came out. But the hope for incisive , investigative journalism faded rapidly as they became partisan , very careless of facts, became agenda driven and degenerated to what appeared to be classic brown envelope journalism on occasions. It may we’ll be that Saraki is using his malign power and influence to punish them but a little penitence and signs of turning over a new leaf would help. We do need a fair and fearless news source. If Sowore’s oversize ego will allow it I am sure SR will regain its original pride of place.

  • Tijani

    Even Sowore dare not print this further libelous article on Sahara Reporters. PT does itself no favours by jumping into the fray without the benefit of facts. Sowore is a blackmailing rogue, one day soon he will confess the reason for his obsessively maligning Saraki. The answers are in his bank accounts anyway, bribes galore, even with references. Dirty money leaves a bolder trail than clean, Sowore has bitten off more than he can chew.

    • So oju abe niko

      This appears to come from a Saraki’s paid lackey. You are complaining about libel, but that hasn’t stopped you from making unfounded libelous claims. Free advice – there is no full anonymity on the internet.

      • absam777

        The guy, @Tijani is so twisted in his thinking that he cannot accept a ‘free advice’ when Saraki is concern. The local champion Saraki is not confident of his integrity, which is why he cannot try his defamation crap in New York , Abuja and Lagos.

        • Tijani

          Funnily enough, Sowore should explain to US authorities why he is running his (blackmailing) business from a residential address without a change of use licence. Glass houses and stones.

          • absam777

            That is a matter for the US government and not for Saraki and his kangaroo court. Like I said, if Saraki is so confident of his case, he should try his luck in a proper court and not where he
            can corrupt anyone, And, no hired mobs in court or on the internet.

          • Tijani

            Your advice will be more pertinent to Omoyele aka Owoyele Sowore. Dullardeen thugs.

      • Tijani

        I am not a paid lackey to anybody, and neither do I hide my name. I do not even misspell my name intentionally as Sowore does in USA. Sowore is a tax evading money launderer.

  • UDO

    Why not allow an appeal to go on. When impunity continues either way, no one is safe. No one should defame and no one shd use his high office to block justice.

    • Tijani

      If Sowore is confident of his integrity why hasn’t he sued Saraki? Why is he using scurrilous delay tactics and distractions in this case instead of the only lawful defence in a libel case which is proof of fact?

      Sowore defamed a Nigerian citizen and a ranking citizen at that. Saraki went to court to seek redress. This has nothing to do with journalism…SR is a pure blackmailing outfit…and a court gave judgement. Well they will continue to meet in court.

      Not one of those signatories has any shred of credibility to openly defend SR…and defend him on what?? Wanton malice, recklessness on regularly defaming a citizen’s reputation?? Rather than defending Sowore they are attacking Saraki.

      Let Sowore enter Great Britain where he is a person of interest to the UK authorities for passport forgery.

  • Tijani

    The general media style in Nigeria, in response to the lawful exercise of a high ranking citizen’s rights is to portray Saraki as a bully..but the real bully is Omoyele Sowore who uses Sahara Reporters to defame citizens for monetary gains.

    It will be very good for Sowore’s frozen bank account entries to be made public, those bare facts will show the world who he is, who pays him, and why.

    Saraki true to his pedigree as a medical doctor, a diagnostician, has chosen the right response. The court of law. After all he is the chief law maker of the country. Let the law decide, and let the law prevail.