The Federal High Court, Abuja Division, has ruled that Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State must issue a public apology and pay N500 million in damages for violating the fundamental rights of Murtala Ajaka, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate in the November 11 governorship election in Kogi.
In a judgment delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, the court directed Governor Bello to publicly apologize to Mr. Ajaka for what was described as the “gross and unwarranted violation” of his rights. Additionally, the court ordered the provision of maximum security for Mr. Ajaka and his property in Abuja, Kogi, and across Nigeria before, during, and after the governorship poll.
The court issued an injunction restraining security agencies from further harassing, intimidating, or threatening Mr. Ajaka’s life and properties. This decision follows an originating motion filed by Mr. Ajaka seeking protection from the court against alleged threats and attempts on his life.
Mr. Ajaka, who contested the Kogi governorship primary election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) before joining the SDP, claimed that he faced threats and acts of intimidation from Governor Bello and other security agencies. The court found merit in Mr. Ajaka’s case, emphasizing that the respondents violated his rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
Governor Bello, in his defense, sought to have the case struck out, arguing that Mr. Ajaka filed the action against him as a sitting governor of Kogi. The court rejected this argument, stating that the governor’s counter-affidavit failed to effectively challenge Mr. Ajaka’s case.
The court, in awarding damages, considered the trauma suffered by Mr. Ajaka during the shooting incident and emphasized the condemnation of any action that unlawfully breaches the fundamental rights of citizens.
The judge also noted inconsistencies in the evidence presented by the governor’s aides and affirmed that the unprovoked shooting on June 3, 2023, was a gross violation of Mr. Ajaka’s right to life and human dignity.
As a result of the ruling, the eighth to eleventh respondents in the case were struck out due to the lack of evidence implicating them in the incident.
The court’s decision underscores the importance of upholding citizens’ fundamental rights and sends a strong message against any unlawful actions that infringe upon these rights.