Gov Wike’s Libel Suit Against ThisDay Newspapers: Defence Counsel Fails To Open Defence, Gets Adjournment

The defence counsel representing ThisDay Newspapers failed on Monday to open his defence in libel suit against the paper by Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Wike.

Tuduru Ede (SAN) told the court that they were ordinarily to open their defence but saw the need to make amendment to their statement saying they had filed an application to effect the amendment in line with the instruction given by their client.

He said that their filed motion was before the registry but had not been attended at time of the hearing.

The defence counsel said they would open their defence after amendment and applied for adjournment.

But the counsel to the state governor, E.C. Ukala (SAN) told the court that he was opposed to the application.

He said based on agreement between the counsels the matter was adjourned for defence.

He said that it was unfortunate that the defence counsel was talking about an amendment instead of proceeding with the case adding that it was a ploy to move the hearing dates further.

The counsel said that the amendment should not necessitate an application for adjournment and told the court the case should go on. He also said that he was opposed to the adjournment and had called on the defence to put his witness to the witness box.

In reply, the defence said that the application was for adjournment and cited relevant laws empowering him to make application for adjournment saying that the court, according to the cited laws, had authority to rule on his application.

However, counsel to the governor said  the defence should respond on points of law over what he said concerning the application and not try to prove why it should be taken.

The defence counsel said that once the amendment was made he would bring his witness to court.

He also said that the application should be granted saying that he needed amendment for the court to take the issues.

The presiding judge of  Port-Harcourt High Court, Hon. Justice Adolphus Enebeli, had granted the adjournment saying he was granting for last time and had adjourned to 11 February.

Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, had instituted legal action against ThisDay Newspapers for allegedly portraying him as a selfish politician who meddles and exerts influence on court cases in Rivers State for his political end.

The paper had published a story with the headline: “With Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo: Almost” prompting the governor to institute legal proceedings at the High Court before Hon. Justice Enebeli and had demanded N7billion damages.

The governor is seeking an order of mandatory injunction to compel the defendants in the suit to withdraw and recant the libellous story and make an apology.

In a written statement on oath, the governor said the defendants accused him of influencing the decision of a court in Port-Harcourt which barred Godwin Obaseki from participating in primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party in Edo State in 2020 to allegedly favoour his political ally, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama.

One of the reliefs sought is for retraction of the story and the retraction to be published at front page of the paper giving the whole front page to retraction of the story.

Meanwhile, speaking with newsmen on Monday, the defence counsel said he could not open the defence because: “We needed to add more facts on what we have pleaded and then to bring additional witnesses”.

He also said that the proceedings were not bad.

Speaking on his application, the defence counsel said that he made the application  because he needed to make the application saying that the counsel representing the governor did what he was supposed to do by opposing the application.

Ede said the court exercised its discretion judiciously by granting the application to enable them make the appropriate processes available to the court.

He said that the matter was adjourned for the court to take motion for amendment.

On his part, M.S. Agu who spoke on behalf of E.C. Ukala (SAN) said that the matter was adjourned from January 12 to January 31 for defence counsel to open his defence.

He said that defence counsel failed to open his defence on January 12 saying that his witness was bereaved.


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