N1 billion libel: Ortom can still appeal suit — Benue AG

There are strong indications that Benue State Goveror, Samuel Ortom will appeal the judgment of the state high court which struck out his libel case against the former Speaker of the State Assembly, Terkimbir Ikyange.

The State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Benue State, Michael Gusa disclosed this on Sunday while reacting to the judgment which the opposition party had celebrated.

It will be recalled that governor Samuel Ortom had dragged the former Speaker, Ikyange to court for defaming his character in the press statement of July, 30, 2018 in which he accused the governor of deducting N50m each from the 23 local government areas of the state every month amounting to N33 billion and alleged that the governor embezzled N22 billion security votes.

Irked by the allegations, Governor Orom dragged the former Speaker to the state high court for defaming his character and demanded the sum of N1 billion as damages.

But delivering judgement on the suit last Thursday, Justice A I Ityonyiman dismissed the libel case saying, “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.”

The opposition party has continued to celebrate the judgment on cyberspace interpreting the judgement that it asked the governor to appear before court to give evidence against those taken to court.

Shedding light on the judgment, the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Gusa said that despite the judgment, governor Ortom still has confidence in the judiciary both in the state and Nigeria.

Gusa explained that Governor Orom prefers to seek redress in court anytime he is defamed rather than to use political thugs to attack the opposition.

According to the Attorney General, “Some political leaders like to get political thugs  when they feel defamed or slandered, to such person but Ortom poses 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 thing to do 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 said that the opposition has been misinforming the public about the true position of the judgment.

Contrary to the insinuations in the opposition camp that the governor must personally appear in court to give evidence, the Commissioner said that the position of the court is that it is the third party to whom you published the libellous fact that you have reduced and the third party can go to court to give evidence in support of the issue.

Quoting from the judgment; Gusa said, “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.”

The Commissioner for Justice further explained 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.

The Attorney General who stated that they are still studying the judgment said, “the governor  can always ventilate his grievances at Court of Appeal and even the Supreme Court.”


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