An Edo High Court in Benin City, has adjourned the N5 billion libel suit instituted by the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Mike Igini, against the Edo State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Col David Imuse (rtd) to September. 26, 2022.
The adjournment, which was granted by the presiding Judge, Justice Vestee Eboreime, was sequel to an oral application by the counsel to Imuse, Mr. Austin Osarenkhoe, yesterday who informed the court that at the close of sitting on Tuesday, August 3, he had a meeting with the claimant’s counsel, Clement Onwuenwu (SAN), on the possibility of settling the matter amicably.
Osarenkhoe stressed that having settled a sister matter with the claimant out of court, earlier, he would like to explore the same window for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), and implored the court to grant his prayer.
In further demonstration of his seriousness at pursuing an out-of-court settlement, the first defendant’s counsel, stopped his further cross-examination of Igini after he had tendered copies of the Nigerian Tribune and The Sun Newspapers, which the claimant relied upon as the vehicles for the purported libel.
Igini had dragged Imuse and two others, African Newspapers of Nigeria Plc, publishers of the Tribune titles and The Sun Newspapers before the court, claiming that the Edo State APC Chairman, libeled him (Igini), when he addressed a press conference in Auchi, Edo State, on August 29, 2020, in the heat of the electioneering for the Edo State gubernatorial election held on September 19, 2020.
Onwuenwu (SAN) counsel to the Akwa-Ibom REC, while objecting to the motion for adjournment, said that since the counsel to the first defendant had opened his cross-examination, it would be proper for him to complete the leg of the legal firework, and used the window of court vacation slated for mid-August through September, 2022, to pursue the amicable settlement.
The SAN stressed that hinging the motion for adjournment on the possibility of amicable settlement was not strong enough.
While the counsel to the second defendant (ANN Plc), Mr. Femi Jarete Edema, aligned with the submission of the SAN, counsel to the third defendant (Sun Newspapers), Chief Ogodu, aligned with the first defendant’s counsel’s position, adding that the parties had met and agreed to explore ADR opportunity.
Ruling on the oral application, Justice Eboreime noted that the court encourages ADR machineries by parties to settle out of court. She subsequently adjourned the case to September 26, 2022.
The judge urged the defendant’s counsel to make maximum use of the window to ensure that the matter was resolved amicably before the next date.
Speaking to newsmen after the adjournment, Igini said the court case was geared towards redeeming his reputation, which he alleged Imuse damaged by the contents of the press conference.
According to him, “the court is the highest place of ethical standards. For an Imuse to do what he did to me at a time the attention of the whole world is focusing on Edo State Governorship election is not acceptable. It is damaging”.
“He intended to ruin my reputation both in private and in public life. We all have a life to live. I will be leaving INEC in a very short while. After this, life continues. Reputation is everything. It precedes you anywhere you go to in life.
“I am not the only one bearing that name, Igini. There are other members of the family bearing the same name but he tried to destroy my name.
“Of course it is one of the duties of the court to encourage litigants on amicable settlement of disputes but in this case, the train has left the station. This is 2022 and I have stepped into the witness box. I have been stressed traveling all over the place.
“Under God, Imuse must come to this court to prove his allegations to the world. That is all I have to say for now”, he maintained.