Almost three weeks after it delivered judgment against a former Chairman of the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission, Dr Chidi Odinkalu in a libel suit, Rivers State High Court has refused to release a copy of the judgment to enable him file his appeal.
Justice Augustina Kingsley-Chuku of a Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt had on January 27, 2020, slammed a sum of N250million as cost against Odinkalu for allegedly publishing defamatory materials against a former governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili.
However, on the February 7, 2020, Odinkalu’s counsel, Mr. I.C.Opi, applied for a copy of the judgment to enable him prepare an appeal on behalf of his client.
At press time, the lawyer said that the court refused to give him a copy of the judgment.
On February 17, Mr Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, SAN, who had since taken over as Odinkalu’s lead counsel wrote another letter to the court requesting for an authenticated copy of the judgement.
A copy of his letter obtained by newsmen reads: “I now lead a team of lawyers acting for the defendants (Chidi Odinkalu and Ayisha Osori) in the suit in the above caption which was determined before his Lordship, the Justice Knigsley-Chuku.‘‘
“My understanding is that judgment was delivered in the suit on January 27, 2020, and my colleague Mr Opi of the defence team, had on February 7, 2020, applied (copy attached) for the certified true copy of the therefore, but is yet to be obliged therewith up till now.
“By section 294(1) of the 1999 Constitution, my clients are entitled to a duly authenticated of the judgment within seven days of the 27/1/2020 date of its delivery. The seven days had expired since February 3, 2020.”
Odili had in 2018 instituted legal action against the ex-NHRC boss for alleged defamation, demanding the sum of N1 billion as total and general damages and a public apology to be published in national newspapers.
It its judgment, Justice Kingsley-Chukwu ordered the defendant to pay Odili N250million and an additional N300,000 as cost.
However, reacting to the judgment, lawyers to Odinkalu said they would appeal the judgment, adding that the defendants had already instructed them to do so.
The legal team had also faulted the judgment on grounds of bias, and misconduct, amongst others, and that a petition had already been written to the National Judicial Council, NJC, against the trial judge.