Libel: Oshiomhole loses bid to stop Governor Ortom’s suit

A Makurdi High Court presided over by Justice Augustine Ityonyiman on Thursday, January 10, dismissed the preliminary objections filed by the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the APC in a N10 billion defamation suit filed against them by Governor Samuel Ortom.

We gathered that the counsel to Oshiomole and the APC, Damian Dodo, urged the court to dismiss the suit, stressing that the leave of court was not sought before service was done outside jurisdiction.

On his part, counsel to Governor Ortom, Samuel Irabor who had earlier filed a counter-affidavit and written address against the preliminary objection, told the court that the objections of the APC national chairman was lacking in merit as leave was granted by the High Court on Friday, August 24, 2018.

He further argued that the requirement for leave was alien to the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act, 2004 and the Benue State High Court Civil Procedure Rules, 2009 as it was only required in matters filed at the Federal High Court.

Ruling on the matter, Justice Ityonyiman held that the defendants, having filed a defence on the merit, were deemed to have joined issues with the plaintiff and consequently waived their right of objection.

He thereafter dismissed the preliminary objections of Oshiomhole and the APC, and adjourned the suit till Thursday, February 28.

Governor Ortom in the suit among other things, averred that Oshiomhole allegedly assassinated his character and damaged his reputation when in an APC sponsored press conference held on Friday July 27, 2018, the APC national chairman accused him of having a hand in the death of two Catholic priests and other parishioners at Mbalom community on the ground that one of the priests had preached a ‘very critical sermon’ against him (the governor).

Some of the reliefs sought by Governor Ortom included the N10 billion suit against Oshiomhole include, “a declaration by the court that the defendants’ allegations and publication of July 27 against him are false, mischievous, unsubstantiated, defamatory and libelous.

“An order directing the defendants to publish simultaneous retractions/apologies in respect of the said libelous publication against him in the Sunday editions of 10 national dailies circulating within Benue state as well as paid advertorials to the same effect.

“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, their officers, privies, assigns, surrogates or agents whosoever called from further defaming and libeling the plaintiff’s character and reputation and any other order(s) that the court may deem fit to make in the circumstance.”

Meanwhile, the Lamido of Adamawa, Alhaji Barkindo Aliyu Mustapha, has declared that the APC is lucky to have Oshiomhole as its national chairman.

The royal father disclosed this when Oshiomhole and other members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party paid him a courtesy visit at his palace on Tuesday, January 8.

The respected northern traditional ruler further asserted that Oshiomhole has all it takes to lead the party to victory come 2019.

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