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N6bn libel suit: Court fixes April 18 to rule on whether DSS report on Magu can be tendered

Magu linked to 380 houses, 7 crude oil-laden ships, N37bn assets

 

An Ikeja High Court has fixed April 18 to rule on whether a report by the Department of State Service (DSS) on the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) can be tendered as evidence.

Justice Doris Okuwobi fixed the date on Thursday after entertaining arguments from counsel to both Magu and the Sun newspaper which Magu sued for N6 billion for alleged libel.

Counsel to the Sun Newspaper, Mr Charles Ewelunta, while cross-examining an EFCC investigator, Mr Usman Zakari, had sought to tender in evidence, the DSS report on Magu.

However, Magu’s counsel, Mr Wahab Shittu, objected to it on the grounds that it was not a Certified True Copy (CTC).

“The report sought to be tendered purportedly emanated from the DSS, in the hands of one Folashade Bello who purportedly signed the letter on behalf of the director-general.

“The report was purportedly addressed to the clerk of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; it is clear that it is a public document not certified by the DSS or Senate, it is a worthless paper.

“If the defendant is interested in relying on this letter, he should have certified it in line with the provisions of the Evidence Act.

“The defendant is not the proper custodian of the document; I urge my lord to mark it as rejected,” he said.

Responding, Ewelunta said that the DSS report was admissible because it was relevant to the libel suit.

He said: “The objection is completely misconceived; the determinant of admissibility is relevance; custody has nothing to do with it.

“The document we sought to tender is addressed to the clerk of the Senate and was copiously pleaded by the claimant.

“The witness affirmed that he is aware of it, the method for which it was obtained would not affect admission.

“Its existence has been affirmed, it has been frontloaded, the witness mentioned it, why are they afraid of it?”

Earlier, Zakari, the Head of Intelligence and Special Operations Unit of the EFCC, had told the court that an article published by the Sun Newspaper of March 25, 2017, and entitled “Magu Under Fresh Probe Over Two Abuja Mansions’’, was damaging to the EFCC boss.

While being led in evidence by Shittu, Zakari read aloud excerpts of the publication and told the court: “When I read the publication, I was shocked; it affected the way I felt about Mr Ibrahim Mustapha Magu.

“I have worked with him for a long time, I know him both in official and private capacities.

“The publication affected the perspective I had of him, because I had always seen him as someone who is determined to perform with his best ability in his government position.”

The acting EFCC chairman is claiming N5 billion as damages from the Sun newspaper over its publication that alleged that the DSS uncovered two houses in Maitama, Abuja, which were traced to his wife.

The EFCC boss is also demanding that the Sun newspaper should publish an apology to him and retract the allegedly libelous publication.

While giving evidence before the court on Dec. 17, 2018, Magu denied owning two houses in Mataima, Abuja.

He had said: “The publication is totally false. Even if I have the money, I wouldn’t buy houses in Maitama.

“They said the houses are located in the Darrubbe and Missouri, Maitama, and that they belong to my wife.

“My wife Fatima Yakaka Magu, is a civil servant and cannot afford to buy houses in Maitama.

“I am an international man, and the publication has damaged my reputation. The name Magu does not end with me; the publication caused a whole lot of trauma for my lineage.”

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