Judge’s death stalls Obaseki’s aide libel suit against Guardian newspaper

Judge’s death stalls Obaseki’s aide libel suit against Guardian newspaper

Tuesday, June 19, 2018 7:04 pm

Jethro Ibileke/Benin

High Court Judges in Edo State were Tuesday thrown into mourning, following the death of their colleague, JusticeTimothy Ukpebor Oboh of the Auchi Criminal Division.

The death of the Judge stalled all cases in the High Courts across the State, as the bereaved Judges adjourned all cases in honour of their departed colleague who reportedly died during a brief illness.

Among cases affected was the hearing of a suit filed by Mr. Taiwo Akerele, Chief of Staff to the State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, against The Guardian Newspapers.

Akerele had sued the paper over a publication it published over allegations made by the Edo PDP that the State government diverted the rice and assorted relief materials allotted by the federal government through the Customs Service to Internally Displaced Persons, (IDPs) in the State.

The case which should have been heard at High Court number 8, had to be scheduled for hearing on September 2018, after Counsel to both parties in the suit reached an agreement.

Recall that Akerele recently dragged  The Guardian Newspaper to court on the footing of  what he calls “general and/or exemplary or aggravated damages for libel.”

The suit relates to a report widely published online and in major local and national dailies which the Guardian newspaper published earlier in the year with the title “Probe of Alleged diversion of relief materials begins in Edo”.

The report echoed the PDP position that about 4, 781 bags of rice out of the 6,822 ostensibly approved for the Internally Displaced Persons Camp at Uhogwa in Ovia North East Local Government Area of the state by the Federal Government got missing while in the custody of state officials.

At the time of the PDP allegation, the state  government  insisted that the items were judiciously disbursed a development which saw the Nigerian Police inviting Chief Dan Orbih, the State chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for questioning.

But it recanted and said that some of the bags of rice and other items like shoes were damaged in storage before they were duly allocated to the IDPs  and other orphanage homes in the state.

Media Adviser to the Governor, Mr Crusoe Osagie then said: “The allegation is laughable and completely false and is a design of detractors to smear the image of a performing government. They have tried and failed on all other fronts, now they have stooped lower to a commodity as cheap as rice.”

Akerele in his claims before the court is asking it for an order for the newspaper to pay him a total sum of N252.5 million.

He is asking for N250 million as general and/or exemplary or aggravated damages for libel and another N2.5 million as costs.

In addition, Akerele is asking the court to compel the newspaper and one other, to publish a “well-worded retraction and apology in a similarly conspicuous manner.”

Besides he is asking for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants by themselves or their agents or privies howsoever from publishing or causing to be published the “said or similar words defamatory” of the claimant.”

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