Court adjourns Governor Ortom’s libel suit against Makurdi-based lawyer to January 2021

The Benue State Magistrate Court sitting in Makurdi has adjourned till January 29, 2021 to hear the criminal case initiated by Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom against a legal practitioner in the state.

The magistrate, Vincent Kor, after listening to the argument of counsels of both parties adjourned the case to January to hear the preliminary objections against the suit.

Governor Ortom had on Friday filed direct criminal charges against the Makurdi-based lawyer, Barrister Peter Ocha Ulegede, over alleged offences bordering on false, malicious and libellous publication.

Governor Ortom in the case averred that Ulegede allegedly assassinated his character and damaged his reputation in a post he forwarded to the WhatsApp group of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Makurdi Branch on Wednesday, December 9, 2020, at exactly 21:02 hours.

In the forwarded post, Mr Ulegede alleged that during a stakeholders meeting between the Benue State government and organized labour held on Wednesday, December 9, 2020, Governor Ortom decried the frequency of garnishee proceedings against his administration and referred to him (Ulegede) as one of the greedy lawyers and threatened to face such lawyers headlong.

It was stated that the legal practitioner also alleged in the post that Governor Ortom castigated the person of Justice Maurice Ikpambese of the Benue State High Court, Makurdi for granting garnishee orders and had instructed the Attorney General of Benue State to petition the judge.

Governor Ortom said that to show that the malicious publication of the legal practitioner against him was done in full compos mentis and intended to achieve a premeditated negative design, when the case between a certain Juliana Igweka and 95 others vs SUBEB and 9 others came up before a High Court of Justice in Lafia, on Thursday, December 10, 2020, the lawyer sought the permission of the presiding judge and thereafter read the entire aforementioned post to the hearing of court, lawyers, litigants and observers.

When the case came up for mention, counsel to Governor Ortom, Samuel Irabor, observed that the defendant was not in court and made an oral application for the trial magistrate to issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the legal practitioner.

However, Ulegede through his counsel, Augustine Sule objected to the application for the issuance of a bench warrant, arguing that his client was served on Thursday and that he needed 48-hours to appear in court as required by law.

Ruling on the argument, the trial magistrate, Vincent Kor agreed with Ullegede’s counsel, saying the time of service on Ulegede and mention of the case was not up to 48-hours.

He thereafter adjourned the suit to January 29, 2021, to hear the preliminary objections against the suit.


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