Nigeria

N1 billion libel: Benue governor may appeal case against former speaker – commissioner

Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom

Governor Samuel Ortom would explore the provision of the law to seek an appeal of his case against the former Speaker of the state’s House of Assembly, Terkimbir Ikyange.

The Benue State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Barr. Michael Gusa, disclosed this on Sunday.

Ortom had dragged the former speaker to court in a libel suit, which was struck out a few days ago by a High Court sitting in Makurdi, the Benue state capital.

The governor had prayed the court to grant him N1 billion as damages against Ikyange for defaming his (governor) character in the press statement of July 30, 2018.

But, in a judgment delivered by Justice A I Ityonyiman on Thursday, the court held that the “plaintiff (Ortom) has not made out a case against the defendant (Ikyange) as required by law. The suit must therefore fail. It fails and it is hereby dismissed.”

To this end, the State Attorney General, Gusa offered an explanation that the governor still holds the judiciary both in the state and at the national level with high esteem and would seek further means to appeal the judgment rather than use political thugs as some politicians would rather resort to settle scores.

“Some political leaders like to get political thugs when they feel defamed or libelled they will send political thugs to attack such person, but Ortom will want to ventilate his grievances in court because for the fact that he is a governor doesn’t mean he is not a human being. He has blood running in his vein.

“So the best and most civilized way to do it is to go to court, whenever he is defamed he goes to court for the offender to prove such in court and let the people know the true position of things.”

Gusa, who quoted part of the judgment, set the record straight for those thinking that the judge insisted that the governor must appear before the court.

He referred to the judgment, “In our civil jurisprudence if there is any cause in which the evidence of a claimant is irrelevant, it is in the tort of defamation.

“It is one’s estimation in the eyes of others that is germane to the point in defamation.

“It is therefore not for the claimant to launder his image but the 3rd party to say how the publication has affected his estimation of the claimant.

“It is, therefore, sheer quibbling on the part of defence counsel to launch his offensive against the non-appearance of the plaintiff as a witness,” he said.

He added that the court hinged its dismissal of suit No: MHC/314/2018 on the premise that the plaintiff did not prove that as at the time of the press conference, the defendant was no longer the Speaker of the State Assembly.

“We are still studying the judgment. The governor can always ventilate his grievances at the Court of Appeal and even the Supreme Court,” Gusa maintained.

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