From Tony Osauzo, Benin
A Benin High Court, yesterday, adjourned further hearing in a N5 billion libel suit to enable parties in the matter to explore settlement out of court.
Akwa-Ibom State Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Mike Igini, had instituted the action against the Edo State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Col. David Imuse (retd). Joined in the suit are the Nigerian Tribune and The Sun Newspapers.
At the continuation of hearing of the suit yesterday, Counsel to Imuse, Austin Osarenkhoe, after cross-examining the Claimant, Igini, sought court adjournment to explore possible out-of-court settlement of the case, saying he had discussed with other Counsels in the matter in that regard.
But lead Counsel to Igini, Clement Onwuenwunor, SAN, while not opposed to the move for settlement, objected to the first defendant Counsel’s request for adjournment, urging the court to direct him to conclude his cross-examination of the plaintiff, who had been on the witness box for two days before asking for adjournment.
The presiding Judge, Justice Vestee Eboreimen, who had earlier encouraged the parties to seek possible ways of settling the matter out of court, granted the request of first defendant’s Counsel and adjourned the case to September 26, 2022 for report of settlement.
Earlier on Wednesday, when hearing of the suit resumed, Mr. Igini, led by his Counsel, Clement Onwuenwunor, SAN, had tendered documents and a video tape of a press conference by Col. Imuse, containing the alleged libel. The tape was played in court.
Igini, who spoke to journalists shortly after the court adjourned, described the court as 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 was 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 in life.
“So, haven brought me to this court on account of what he did; and, myself, haven been put on the witness box, Col. Imuse will have to be on this same witness box, so he can tell the world those things he said about me and my name.
“I am not the only one bearing that name. There are other members of the family bearing the same name, but he tried to destroy my name. I was never in Edo during the press conference. I never had any meeting with anyone, but these are the things he said about me.
“So, he must come to this court to tell the entire world. I have been here to say I did nothing. That I was never in Edo State when he claimed I was in the state holding meetings on how to rig the election. I have been all over the world on election matters and that is why he must come here to tell the whole world.
“The application for settlement on which he has come to ambush, has he filed a defence in court since 2020? He has not done that. 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.”