The presidency has convinced former head of state General Muhammadu Buhari to settle out of court the libel suit he had initiated against the special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Dr Reuben Abati.
Abati had on page 51 of the April 22, 2011, edition of The Guardian newspaper, written an opinion article entitled “For the attention of General Buhari”. In it, he claimed that Buhari made an inciting statement which led to the post-election violence that rocked some parts of the north.
The former presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), however, regarded the publication as defamatory, intended to lower his integrity and to bring him into public ridicule. Buhari consequently dragged Abati and The Guardian to court via suit no. ID/837/2011 and demanded N1billion damages from them.
But in a copy of the Terms of Settlement exclusively obtained by LEADERSHIP SUNDAY and filed before a Lagos High Court in Ikeja, the parties have agreed to settle the matter out of court.
In the terms of settlement dated December 2012 and filed before the administrative judge of Lagos State, Justice Opeyemi Oke, the claimant (Buhari), Mr. Tope Adebayo ( lawyer to Buhari), Abati and Mr. Kunle Sanyaolu (lawyer to The Guardian) signed the terms of settlement. But the lawyer to the first defendant (Abati), Dame Carol Ajie, declined to sign the document.
The document quoted the claimant and defendants as having explored the option of amicable settlement of the suit and agreed that, by virtue of the execution of the terms of settlement, all issues relating to the suit should be determined.
The parties further agreed that Abati and The Guardian should retract and apologise to Buhari in certain form and contents.
The terms of settlement reads in part: “The claimant (Buhari) and defendants (Abati and The Guardian) have agreed that the defendants should publish a retraction and an apology to the claimant on the Opinion Page of the newspaper, to be printed in reverse line black (RLB) within seven days of entering the Consent Terms as the judgment of the court in two editions of The Guardian.
“The claimant and defendants have agreed and resolved that the retraction and apology shall take the following form and contents: ‘Re: For the attention of General Buhari’- On April 22, 2011, The Guardian Newspaper published an article on Page 51 titled ‘For the attention of General Buhari’ where certain allegations were made against General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), GCFR, concerning the 2011 election and General Buhari’s alleged role in the violence emanating from the elections.
“The publication was based on information which we believed to be reliable at that time. Since the publication, however, we now have reason to believe that certain parts of the story were not verified to be correct before the publication.
“We assure General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), GCFR, of our highest esteem and regret any distress or embarrassment which the said publication may have caused him.
“The claimant and defendants agree that on the execution of these Terms of Settlement, the defendants are discharged from all or any liabilities or obligations arising from the said publication.”
Abati had stirred the hornet’s nest in the said column when he wrote that Buhari made an inciting statement after the 2011 presidential poll thus: “You should never leave polling centres until polls are counted and the winner declared and you should lynch anybody that tries to tinker with the votes.”