A Federal High Court in Lagos Tuesday fixed April 22 for judgment in a suit filed by a Lagos-based trader, Amudat Adeleke, against a former President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, over alleged unauthorised use of her picture on campaign billboards.
Saraki was the Director-General of the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation for the 2019 general election.
Also joined in the suit FHC/L/CS/193/19 are the Peoples Democratic Party; Abubakar, who was the party’s presidential flag bearer; and his running mate, Peter Obi.
Adeleke, in the suit filed by her counsel, Kingsley Iheakaram, is claiming N45 million from the respondents jointly and severally as compensation for unlawful, unauthorised and unconstitutional use of her image for campaign.
She averred that her image was displayed in strategic places in Lagos such as Onikan, Costain, Apongbon, Airport Road, WAEC in Yaba, Illupeju and Ikorodu.
The applicant is seeking an order of court directing the immediate withdrawal and destruction of the campaign materials containing her images anywhere within and outside Nigeria.
She is also seeking a declaration that the alleged unauthorised use, publication and display of her image as advertisement by the respondents as well as its Presidential Campaign Organisation constitutes an infringement on her fundamental right to privacy as guaranteed by the Constitution.
On Tuesday, counsel to the applicant moved his motion after obtaining leave of court to regularise his processes.
Iheakaram urged the court to grant the prayers sought as the images of the applicant used depicted her as poverty stricken and violates her fundamental rights.
He adopted his processes and urged the court to rule in his favour.
In response, the respondents counsel, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), also informed the court of his counter affidavit in opposition to the suit.
Jegede argued that the nature of the claim as sought by the applicant could not come under the ambit of a fundamental rights enforcement procedure.
He also argued that the claim could at most be a tortious one for which evidences will be adduced and witnesses called.
Besides, Jegede argued that the applicant openly and willingly posed for the photographs and had also openly declared her support for the candidates alongside other market traders.
He argued that having openly made such open declaration, she cannot now turn around to allege a breach of her fundamental rights.
Eyitayo argued that the applicant is not even known to the third and fourth respondents, adding that this fact has not been controverted by the applicant.
He consequently urged the court to dismiss the suit.
In his reply, the applicant’s counsel maintained that Adeleke’s suit is properly brought under the fundamental rights enforcement procedure.
According to him: “No matter how eloquent the argument of counsel appears in court, it cannot take the place of evidences placed before the court.”
Iheakaram urged the court to be persuaded by the evidences placed before it and grant the reliefs sought.
After listening to parties, Justice Ayokunke Faji adjourned the case until May 22 for judgement.
In an affidavit in support of the Originating Motion, the applicant averred that on December 4, 2019, agents of the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation under the leadership of Saraki led a campaign on behalf of Abubakar and Obi.
The campaign was taken to Oyin Jolayemi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos to draw support for the candidacy of Abubakar and Obi in the 2019 presidential race.
It was further averred that in the course of the campaign, AACO and Saraki began to personally engage the individuals, traders, entrepreneurs and other citizens on the said street, including the plaintiff, on their expectations in respect of the forthcoming 2019 general election.
The plaintiff said during the interactive engagement, she and most of the individuals in the locality of the campaign pledged support for Abubakar and Obi due to the harsh economic situation in the country.
Adeleke further stated that during the interaction, Saraki and his agents took photographs without informing her that they were going to put them to any use.
She said she had thought the first respondent took the picture just to commemorate the event.
Adeleke said afterwards, she started seeing her pictures being used on campaign bill boards in Lagos, Abuja and other places in the country, while people started calling her from different places.
She added that sequel to the infringement on her privacy, she had to take time to explain to friends, relatives and well-wishers who had been inundating her with calls of the true state of affairs with regards to the unauthorised display of her image on billboards.
The plaintiff said all her friends who saw the advert said it portrayed her as a woman stricken by poverty that had lost all hope and was prepared to commit suicide.
Meanwhile, the respondents in their counter affidavit said Abubakar and Obi did not physically meet with the applicant or in any other manner in the course of their campaign in Lagos State and neither took snapshots or photographs with her.
The defendants averred that all matters of electronic/billboards campaigns were contracted to Messrs AHC Production Limited, adding that the applicant was contacted by that company.
Respondent consequently urged the court to dismiss the suit.