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Odili's Defamation Suit: Court Restrains Authors From Further Publication

A Port-Harcourt High Court has ruled that there should be no further publication of a book which allegedly defames the reputation of a former governor of Rivers State, Sir (Dr.) Peter Odili.

The presiding judge, Justice Augusta Chukwu, gave the restraining order when she gave her ruling on an application for an interlocutory injunction by counsel to Dr. Odili, Kanu Agabi (SAN).

Giving the ruling on Monday, Justice Chukwu said that the facts before her, showed that the plaintiff and former governor of Rivers State had not done anything “reprehensible” and that it was the duty of the court to protect the reputation of those who come before it for justice.

She ordered that the co-authors of the book, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu and Ms Ayisha Osori, should stop further publication of copies of the book pending the hearing of the “substantial suit”, and adjourned the case to 12th April.

The presiding judge also ruled that she would not withdraw from the case as was requested by the defence counsel, Barrister Idaye Opi, who alleged that the presiding judge was being biased in favour of the plaintiff, Dr. Odili.

Justice Chukwu said that the defence counsel's application that she should recuse herself from the case, lacked merit, adding that his suspicion that she was being biased in the trial of the case was unfounded and dismissed the application by the defence counsel.

She said that there would be an accelerated hearing of the case and appealed to both the prosecuting and defence counsels not to do anything to delay the hearing of the case.

The plaintiff and former governor of Rivers State, Sir (Dr.) Odili, had gone to court and had filed a defamation suit against two co-authors for the way they portrayed him in their book, “Too Good To Die: Third Term And The Myth Of The Indispensable Man In Africa.”

Odili said that the two co-authors brought him into public ridicule by the contents of their book and demanded that they make a public apology and also pay N1billion as damages for defaming his reputation.

Odili's counsel, Kanu Agabi (SAN), had before the ruling, opposed the application by the defence counsel for the suspension of ruling on the motion for an interlocutory injunction. 

The co-authors of the book in the centre of the lawsuit, Prof. Odinkalu and Ms Osori, alleged in their book that the former Rivers State governor, Sir (Dr.) Odili, funded a campaign for an alleged third term bid by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, adding that Odili's then Bauchi State counterpart, Adamu Muazu, was also involved in the campaign.

The co-authors also alleged that former President Obasanjo spent millions of dollars to realize his third term ambition through a constitutional amendment, but that the bill for the alleged extension of tenure by the former President was thrown out by the National Assembly.

Meanwhile, counsel for the defence, who spoke in an interview after the ruling, said that he was not “surprised” by the ruling of the presiding judge, saying that he would weigh his “options” and would take “action” accordingly.

Odili's counsel however declined to speak with the press.

Dr. Odili was present in court with some of his loyalists, who came to show their solidarity.