Parties involved in the suit instituted against THISDAY newspaper by Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, will adopt their final written address before Port-Harcourt High Court on September 15 presided by Honourable Justice Adolphus Enebeli.
This is the last stage to the court fixing date for judgement.
The High Court adjourned after hearing on Friday, June 24 for the adoption of final written address.
However, parties will file and serve their final written address before then.
On Friday, the lead counsel to Governor Wike, E. C. Ukala (SAN), cross-examined the last witness of the defence, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, after he had been sworn in to testify.
While being led in evidence by his counsel Tuduru Ede (SAN), the witness had told the court that he was the editor of THISDAY newspaper in Abuja and northern Nigeria saying that he had made witness statement on oath and had wanted it adopted as evidence.
During the cross-examination the governor’s counsel had asked for the meaning of the headline under litigation asking what they had intended to convey but the witness while replying said that the headline was the interpretation and the summary of the story.
The paper published a report on June 23, 2020 with the headline: “With A Friend Like Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo; Almost” prompting legal action by Governor Wike.
But when pressed further the witness had said the governor was allegedly inconsistent.
When asked if by the publication they were warning Governor Obaseki against Governor Wike, the witness had while trying to say something been interrupted by his lawyer who had said objecting that the witness should not be forced to volunteer opinion.
However the witness said that the governor was allegedly inconsistent in his utterances and public comments saying that it was what the headline had intended to convey.
And asked if the headline was saying that Governor Wike was a reliable friend of Governor Obaseki, the witness said that he should not be forced to volunteer an opinion which forced the counsel to say that he was following in the footsteps of his counsel.
Uwugiaren was also asked to point out words referring to the governor’s alleged inconsistency in the story but he said that the entire story was about the headline and despite pressure he had continued to say the story was about the headline.
He was also asked if the court case involving Chief Victor Giadom of All Progressives Congress over the chairmanship position of the party was extension of supremacy battle between Governor Wike and former transportation minister, Chibuike Amaechi, in which he had said he had not enough information.
When asked if he was aware the judiciary was independent, the witness said although the judiciary was independent there were perceptions that it could be influenced in its decision by those in authority.
When asked if he had evidence that the governor influenced court decisions over court cases involving Chief Giadom and Governor Obaseki, the witness had asked how he could have the evidence when it was not being reported.
Meanwhile, speaking in an interview, one of the counsel for Governor Wike, Mark .S. Agwu, said that the next adjourned date would be for adoption of final written address.
He said that by the rules the defence counsel had 21 days within which to file the written address and then serve on claimant’s counsel who would reply on points of law and also file and serve on the defence.
He said: “You know the court is going on vacation so we want to believe that as the court resumes, we would be able to do the adoption. So they (defence) have finally closed their case for the defence”.
On his part, lead defence counsel Ede said: “We’ve concluded the defence for the defendants with our last witness,” saying that parties would file final written address and adopt them on the adjourned date.
He said that he was satisfied with witnesses presented before the court who had testified on behalf of his clients.
Governor Wike filed libel suit against THISDAY newspaper for allegedly defaming his reputation in their report of June 23, 2020 in which according to the Governor’s Special Assistant on Electronic Media, Kelvin Ebiri, the paper had “portrayed him as deceitful, untrustworthy person who exerts subterranean influences on judicial matters and over court sittings in Port Harcourt”.
He had said: “In his written statement on oath, Governor Wike had stated that the defendants had accused him of influencing the decision of the court sitting in Port-Harcourt that granted an injunction restraining Godwin Obaseki from participating in the primaries of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State in 2020”.
Governor Wike is demanding seven billion naira damages for the alleged “malicious publication” against him.
Speaking earlier on the case one of the governor’s counsel, Mark .S. Agwu, had said the governor was asking for very little amount of money from the defendants in compensation “which if you compare it to the person he is it means nothing”.