The Federal High Court in Abuja has ruled against Kogi Governor Yahaya Bello, ordering him to pay N500 million in damages to Murtala Ajaka, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the last governorship election.
The judgment, delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo on Thursday, also mandates Governor Bello to issue a public apology to Ajaka for the “gross and unwarranted violation” of his fundamental human rights.
The case, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/952/2023, stemmed from the June 3 attack and attempted assassination of Ajaka. He accused Governor Bello of instigating security agencies to assault him due to his decision to challenge Bello’s alleged anointed candidate, Ahmed Ododo, of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Ajaka detailed the harrowing incident on June 3, where his convoy, en route to visit the Ohimege of Koto at Koton-karfe, was ambushed with bullets. He described how a vehicle bearing the government’s insignia, allegedly under Governor Bello’s orders, obstructed the expressway, leading to a hail of bullets on his convoy.
Governor Bello vehemently denied the allegations, questioning the court’s jurisdiction and accusing Ajaka of orchestrating an attack against him. He asserted that federal agencies, listed as respondents in the suit, are not under his direct control.
Justice Ekwo, in his thorough judgment, found Governor Bello’s defense evasive and lacking specificity. He pointed out that the governor’s counter affidavit failed to effectively challenge Ajaka’s detailed allegations. The judge highlighted discrepancies in the accounts presented by the governor’s security personnel, suggesting an attempt to cover up the events of June 3.
The court ruled in favor of Ajaka, holding that Governor Bello and the listed security agencies violated the applicant’s rights as enshrined in the constitution. The judge acknowledged the trauma suffered by Ajaka, emphasizing the unlawful and inhuman nature of the assault.
Striking out the 8th to 11th respondents from the case, Justice Ekwo focused on the reprehensible act of unprovoked shooting at Ajaka, his supporters, and campaign vehicles. The judgment emphasized the violation of Ajaka’s right to life and dignity, as protected by the constitution and international human rights laws.
This landmark ruling sends a clear message about the sanctity of citizens’ fundamental rights, condemning any breach thereof. As Kogi Governor Yahaya Bello faces the consequences of this legal setback, the aftermath of this judgment is likely to reverberate in both legal and political spheres.
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