The Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, has been ordered by a Federal High Court in Abuja to pay N500 million as damages and tender a public apology to Murtala Ajaka, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the 2023 governorship election in the state, for violating his fundamental human rights.
The court found that Bello was responsible for the attack on Ajaka and his supporters on June 3, 2023, which was aimed at assassinating him and preventing him from contesting the election.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, who delivered the judgment on Thursday, said that Bello instigated the security agencies, including the police, the State Security Service (SSS), and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), to unleash violence on Ajaka and his convoy after they left the palace of the Maigari of Lokoja.
The court heard that Bello personally alighted from his vehicle and ordered the security personnel to open fire on Ajaka’s vehicle and motorcade, which resulted in several vehicles being riddled with bullets and set ablaze.
Ajaka, who filed the suit against Bello and 11 other respondents, alleged that the governor was behind the attack because he felt threatened by his decision to challenge his alleged anointed candidate, Ahmed Ododo, who contested on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Ajaka said that he was on his way to visit the Ohimege of Koto at Koton-Karfe when his convoy was ambushed and attacked by Bello and his men.
Bello denied the allegations and claimed that Ajaka and his thugs attacked and obstructed his convoy on the Abuja-Kogi Expressway, which forced the security agencies to repel the attack. He also argued that the court lacked jurisdiction over the case and that he had no control over the federal agencies listed as respondents in the suit.
However, Justice Ekwo dismissed Bello’s arguments and held that he was evasive and untruthful in his attempt to deny Ajaka’s allegations. The judge said that he found Ajaka’s evidence to be credible and consistent, and that Bello failed to provide any specific or concrete facts to support his claims. He also said that Bello’s actions amounted to a gross and unwarranted violation of Ajaka’s right to life, liberty, and association, as guaranteed by the Constitution.
The judge, therefore, ordered Bello to pay N500 million as damages to Ajaka and to publish a public apology to him in two national newspapers within 14 days. He also restrained Bello and the other respondents from further harassing, intimidating, or infringing on Ajaka’s rights.