The Human Rights Monitoring Agenda (HURMA) has replied to a letter from a lawyer to Hon. Ademorin Kuye, APC Federal Legislator at the House of Representatives. The legal team of HURMA sees Kuye’s lawyer letter as a threat and as well an error.
According to the letter signed by lawyer Lekan Alabi for the legal team of HURMA, Kuye’s lawyer letter was passed to the legal team of HURMA for appropriate legal response by the Executive Director, Comrade Buna Olaitan Isiak after receiving several threats from Kuye’s lawyer, Ayoola Julius Esq, demanding a retraction to an earlier publication titled
“RECENT SOMOLU KILLINGS: HOLD DULLAR; OLOWO AND KUYE RESPONSIBLE, NOT POLICE”.
This publication according to a report gathered by News Edge was a statement by Comrade Buna while addressing the people of Somolu Community on a recent armed robbery incident that claimed the life of one Suleiman Olumegbon at Ajose Street in Somolu. This was further explained by the Somolu based Rights activist that the political office holders in Somolu Constituency have failed in their primary responsibility which is the provision of security and welfare for the people they are representing.
Hon. Kuye protested the inclusion of his name in the publication and finally demanded a retraction through his lawyer or take legal action against the activist, Comrade Buna Isiak.
Letter from Kuye’s lawyer to Comrade Buna reads in part:
“It is our candid opinion that the publication from the outset was designed to humiliate and destroy the public perception of Our Client.”
“IT IS THEREFORE OUR INSTRUCTION that you retract the said publication within the next 48 hours and tender an unreserved apology using the same media employed in circulating the disparaging publication”
“TAKE NOTICE that if a retraction is not published as advised, we are obliged to take further steps not especially when defamation is also a criminal offence.”
In response to the above demand for retraction by lawyer Ayoola, counsel to Hon. Kuye, HURMA responded with a letter on Monday, September 27th (copy made available to News Edge). The legal team of HURMA maintained that “there is nothing libellous, mendacious and seditious in the publication and there is no reason to retract the publication and tender what you called ‘unreserved apology’ in your letter”.
HURMA response reads further:
“The area of interest of our response is your Client’s veiled threat of criminal prosecution of Comrade Buna Isiak Olaitan should he failed to retract the said publication. Our team believes that you have made a great legal error in not appropriately advising your client, a national lawmaker that the Seditious Offences Ordinance of 1909 which was reproduced in Section 51 of the Criminal Code had been abolished. In other words, you are making use of a dead law to intimidate a great social worker. It is against this background that we urge your good self to advise your client by making use of the authority of ARTHUR NWANKWO V. THE STATE where Olatawura(JCA)(as he then was) stated thus:
“To face public criticisms in respect of their office to ensure that they are accountable to their electorates. They should not be made to feel they live in an Ivory Tower and therefore belong to a different class. They must develop a thick skin and where possible, plug their ears with cotton wool if they feel sensitive or irascible. They are within their constitutional rights to sue for defamation but they should not use the machinery of government to invoke criminal proceedings to gag their opponents as the freedom of speech guaranteed by our constitution will be meaningless.”
“Having regard to the above statement of the law, we are appalled that your client is contemplating a criminal prosecution of a genuine human rights activist who toiled along with others against the military dictatorship to have a rickety democratic space where your client is enjoying without a corresponding responsibility. In a democracy, there is nothing like “the king does no wrong”.
“On this issue of criminal prosecution of a patriotic Nigerian citizen, kindly advise your client to perish the thought as it is going to be a waste of tax payer’s money being collected by him.
“On the civil litigation, your client is at liberty to exercise his fundamental rights of access to justice. We will be glad to have him in the witness box for cross-examination. We hasten to add that “the law is an ass”, your client may need to reconsider his step”.
Finally, HURMA’s letter described Ayoola Julius intimidation of Comrade Buna as professional misconduct and as well cautions the legislator from attempting to use the instrument of the state to harass the Executive Director of HURMA, Comrade Buna Isiak
“By this letter, we want to draw your attention to the conversation you had with Comrade Buna Isiak Olaitan on the 23rd day of September 2021 intimidating him to retract his publication. Our team has analysed the conversation, in good conscience we believe that your conversation is professional misconduct and Comrade Buna Isiak Olaitan has considered reporting you to the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee for an appropriate sanction.
“TAKE NOTICE that should your client contemplate using the instrument of the state to harass and arrest the person of Comrade Buna Isiak Olaitan, all the members of HURMA and other Civil Society Groups shall start a political action against your client which includes but is not limited to the world press conference, field agitation, civil disobedience and peaceful rallies.”