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Libel: Court Dismisses Oshiomole’s Preliminary Objections

A Makurdi High Court presided over by Justice Augustine Ityonyinman, on Friday dismissed the preliminary objection filed by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the N10 billion defamation suit filed against them by Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom.

In the preliminary objection earlier filed by Oshiomole’s lawyer, Damian Dodo, SAN, on the 6th November, 2019, Comrade Oshiomhole and the APC had contended that they were resident in Abuja and the press conference which gave rise to the suit was also held in Abuja and the Court therefore lacked territorial jurisdiction to entertain the suit as it ought to have been instituted at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.

While dismissing the objection, the trial Judge agreed with the counter arguments of the lead counsel to Governor Samuel Ortom, Barr Samuel Irabor that by paragraph 2 of the Governor’s statement of claims, he gave facts that the APC carries out the business of political participation, interest aggregation and mass mobilization through its Benue Chapter office located at No. 73, J. S. Tarka Way, Makurdi.

He held that by Order 3, Rule 4 of the Benue State High Court Civil Procedure Rules, 2007, a suit can be commenced where one of the Defendants is shown to be resident or carries out business within the jurisdiction of the Court.

The Court also agreed with the further argument of Barr. Samuel Irabor that the press release was published in Vanguard newspaper of 27th July, 2018 and the said newspaper circulates within the jurisdiction of the Honourable Court and that these averments in the Governor’s statement of claims were never controverted by the Defendants in their statements of defence and are deemed admitted by virtue of Section 123 of the Evidence Act, 2011.

The Court thereafter dismissed the preliminary objection for lacking in merit and adjourned the suit to February 14, 2020 for hearing to commence.

Governor Ortom in the suit among other things, averred that Oshiomhole allegedly assassinated his character and damaged his reputation when in an APC sponsored press conference held on Friday July 27, 2018, Comrade Oshiomhole accused the Governor of having a hand in the death of two Catholic priests and other parishioners at Mbalom community on the ground that one of the priests had preached a ‘very critical sermon’ against the Governor.

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