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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Halima Abubakar ordered to pay N10 million for defamation of Apostle Johnson Suleman

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The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja, on Monday fined Nollywood actress Halima Abubakar N10 million as damages for defaming Apostle Johnson Suleman of Omega Fire Ministries International.

In 2022, for several months, the erstwhile famous actress accused the controversial cleric of failing in his promise to marry her. She alleged he afflicted her with an undisclosed life-threatening ailment that had plagued her for years.

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After several warnings, in January 2023, Mr Suleman slammed Ms Abubakar with a N1 billion lawsuit for defaming him.

However, the hearing of the case marked FCT/HC/CV/3413/2022 began on 25 March 2023.

The case was presided over by Justice Enobie Obanor of the Abuja High Court, who noted that the actress failed to present her defense after several opportunities and court hearings.

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Consequently, the court ruled in favor of Apostle Suleiman, deeming Ms Abubakar’s statements defamatory. The judgment ordered Ms Abubakar to pay N10 million as aggravated and exemplary damages for libel.

In addition to the financial penalty, Ms Abubakar was instructed to issue a retraction of her defamatory statements on her Instagram handle.

Furthermore, she was tasked with removing all links and reports containing the said comments from various internet platforms.

Allegations

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In October 2022, Ms Abubakar, who made her Nollywood debut in 2001 ‘Rejected’, made a surprising announcement.

Taking to her official Instagram page, the actress revealed her decision to leave her career. While she didn’t delve into specifics, her caption, “rejuvenate and continue healing,” hinted at underlying health concerns.

Ms Abubakar hinted that her departure might be linked to a long-standing health battle, describing an undisclosed ailment that had been a significant challenge for her over the years. The revelation sparked curiosity and concern among her followers.

However, amidst this personal revelation, a new layer of controversy emerged. The actress was entangled in a legal dispute when Mr Suleiman issued a cease and desist notice against her.

Before the legal actions, for several months, the erstwhile actress accused the controversial cleric of reneging on his promise to marry her.

The cleric accused her of disseminating malicious, defamatory, and disparaging remarks about him across various microblogging platforms, with Gistlover being singled out as a primary source.

Warnings

Mr Suleman, represented by legal firm Ephesus Lex Attorneys & Solicitors, took legal action against the actress, issuing her a cease and desist notice.

This cautionary letter outlined allegations of misconduct and demanded an immediate halt to what is claimed to be defamatory behavior.

The notice was prompted by her alleged defamatory statements against the pastor and some of her colleagues, accusing them of engaging in sexual affairs with him.

Rodney Adzuanaga, the legal representative for Apostle Suleman, informed PREMIUM TIMES that the notice was served due to Ms Abubakar’s history of defamatory comments against the cleric.

“The comments, which have been in the public space for a while, recently resurfaced. On the strength of that, we issued her a cease and desist notice,” Mr Adzuanaga stated. He emphasized that failure to comply with the notice would result in a civil suit being filed against Abubakar.

History

However, Mr Suleman has a history of initiating legal proceedings against individuals who have leveled accusations against him.

In 2018, Nigerian singer Stephanie Otobo made headlines when she alleged that he engaged in immoral acts with her. Following her accusations, she was arrested and spent several days in Kirikiri prison.

The preacher countered her claims, accusing her of blackmail, threatening his life, conspiracy, and intending to steal from him. Despite the legal pressure, Ms Otobo persisted in her accusations, even providing what she described as evidence to support her claims.

Also, Ms Otobo, also known by her stage name Stephanie D’ocean, released a diss track and shared a photo on Twitter, purportedly depicting the pastor’s genitals. She further claimed that Apostle Suleman had plotted to kill her, escalating the controversy surrounding their alleged relationship.

In a separate incident in 2021, YouTuber Israel Balogun found himself in trouble after criticizing Mr Suleman.

The police arrested Mr Balogun for posting a video clip of the preacher on YouTube, wherein he prayed for his audience to receive mysterious money alerts.

Mr Balogun’s detention sparked discussions about freedom of speech and the boundaries of criticism in Nigeria. He was eventually released after meeting his bail conditions.

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