From Tony Osauzo, Benin
Hearing in the N5 billion libel suit instituted against the Edo State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Col. David Imuse, retd, by the former Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa-Ibom, Mkie Igini, continued yesterday following failure by the parties to settle out of court.
Also joined in the suit are African Newspapers of Nigeria PLC, publishers of the Tribune titles of Newspapers and the Sun Publishing Ltd, publishers of the Sun titles of Newspapers.
Recall that Counsel to Imuse, Austin Osarenkhoe had at the last hearing of the matter, requested for an adjournment to enable his client explore an out of court settlement of the case, prompting the court to adjourn further hearing to September 26 (yesterday), for continuation of hearing or report of settlement.
But yesterday, Counsel to the Claimant (Igini), Clement Onwuwuenor, SAN, told the court that an agreement could not be reached as settlement broke down, adding that he was ready to go on with his client, following which the Presiding Judge, Justice Vesty Eboreimen, recalled Mike Igini to the witness box to continue with his evidence.
Consequently, Imuse’s Counsel, Austin Osarenkhoe, continued cross-examination of Igini by referring him to paragraph 22 of his witness statement on oath and asked if he stopped over at Protea Hotel in Benin on August 24, 2020 for refreshments, where he met May Agbamuche on his way to Delta State, three weeks before September 19, 2020 Edo State governorship election.
Igini who confirmed meeting Agbamuche who was his boss and who had lodged in the hotel, also agreed to another suggestion from Osarenkhoe that both the Tribune and Sun reporters called him to get his reactions to Imuse’s press conference and that his reactions to the text of the conference were published.
Similarly, when Counsel to the Sun Publishing Ltd, Chief D. O Ogbodo, asked Igini if the Sun got his reaction, and whether it was published, he said yes.
Earlier, the court while ruling on a motion by Imuse’s Counsel seeking for extension of time to file the 2nd defendant’s statement of defence, granted him 48 hours to do so. The court also awarded N50,000 costs against Imuse for failing to file his statement of defence on time despite the court earlier order on him to do so.
Speaking to journalists later, Igini’s Counsel, Clement Onwuwuenor, SAN, said negotiations for settlement out of court broke down because Imuse failed to offer substantial proposal, but however assured that his client was still open to settlement out of court.