..Former Edo governor retracts libelous lies in three newspaper publications
Afraid of going to jail or paying up to N10billion damages, former Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomhole, has retracted a statement full of lies that he made against Benue state Governor, Samuel Ortom on 27th July, 2018 when he was the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Ortom had in a suit, among other things, averred that Oshiomhole assassinated his character and damaged his reputation during an APC-sponsored press conference held on Friday, 27th July, 2018.
He said during the conference, Oshiomhole accused him of having a hand in the death of two Catholic priests and their parishioners at Mbalom community on the ground that one of the priests had preached a ‘very critical sermon’ against him (Ortom).
Ortom then prayed the court for the following reliefs:
“(a) A DECLARATION by this Honourable Court that the Defendants’ allegations and publication of 27/07/2018 against the Plaintiff are false, mischievous, unsubstantiated, defamatory and libelous of the Plaintiff.
“(b) AN ORDER directing the Defendants to publish simultaneous retractions/apologies in respect of the said defamatory and libelous publication against the Plaintiff in the Sunday editions of 10 National Dailies circulating within Benue State as well as paid advertorials to the same effect on the prime time beats of the Nigerian Television Authority, Channels Tv, TVC News, African Independent Television, Independent Television (ITV), Benin, Radio Nigeria, Radio Benue and Harvest FM.
“(c) COST of the suit.
“(d) AN ORDER of the Honourable Court awarding the sum of N10,000,000,000.00K (Ten Billion Naira) only as damages in favour of the Plaintiff and against the Defendants jointly and severally for the defamation and libel of the Plaintiff’s character and reputation by the Defendants.
“(e) AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the Defendants, their officers, privies, assigns, surrogates or agents howsoever called from further defaming and libeling the Plaintiff’s character and reputation.
“ANY OTHER ORDER(S) that the Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstance.”
But Oshiomhole had filed an objection to the suit, arguing that the said press conference was conducted in Abuja, therefore a court in Makurdi, Benue state had no jurisdiction to handle it.
However, on Friday, January 24, 2020, a High Court sitting in Makurdi, dismissed the preliminary objection filed by Adams Oshiomhole, and APC in the N10billion defamation suit.
In the preliminary objection earlier filed by Oshiomole’s lawyer, Damian Dodo, SAN, on the 6th November 2019, Oshiomhole had contended that he was resident in Abuja and that 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.
But Ortom’s lawyer, Samuel Irabor argued 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 trial judge, Justice Augustine Ityonyinman dismissed the objection and agreed with the counterarguments of Irabor that by paragraph 2 of the governor’s statement of claims, he gave facts that the APC carried 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.
Faced with imminent prosecution, Oshiomhole had sought an out-of-court settlement with Ortom, which was communicated to the court on October 13, 2020 and on the basis of which the presiding judge, Justice Augustine Ityonyiman, adjourned the case to October 29, 2020, for the report on the out-of-court settlement.
Ortom had, in January this year, 2021, gone back to a Makurdi high court, seeking a date for a sure hearing in a N10 billion libel suit he filed against Oshiomhole and the APC.
The move was a result of the collapse of the out-of-court settlement talks between Ortom, Oshiomhole, and the APC. The Benue state Governor therefore sought for definite hearing of the case, saying Oshiomhole was unseriousness with an out-of-court settlement.
The matter came up again on February 26, 2021, for a report on the out-off settlement.
But taking to three national dailies today, March 18, 2021, Oshiomhole published a paid advertorial wherein he admitted that he lied against Ortom, claiming he was misled by the information he had.
See the full statement of retraction as published in Thisday, Nation and Vanguard newspapers:
THE RETRACTION OF PUBLICATION
On the 27th day of July, 2018 at the National Headquarters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and particularly in my capacity then as the Chairman of the Party, I addressed different national issues as well as some events which occurred in Benue State, including the movement earlier that day of his Excellency, Dr. Samuel Ortom (Executive Governor of Benue State) from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party.
In the course of the press conference, I made certain comments about Dr Ortom on the basis of information I have since found to be false and baseless.
His Excellency Dr Samuel Ortom felt embarrassed, defamed and deeply aggrieved by the comments I made at the said press conference, culminating in litigation.
That politics aside, Governor Samuel Ortom is a dear friend and brother with whom I have shared so much in common, including mutual respect.
That as former colleagues and one-time members of the Nigerian Governors’ forum and most importantly as someone whom I am just a phone call away from, any ridicule, embarrassment, spite and insult caused Dr Samuel Ortom is regretted.
Owing to the relationship we share and in the larger interest of peace, harmony and brotherliness, I believe a complete retraction of my comments made on 27th July, 2018, and which Dr Samuel Ortom found offensive is proper and necessary.
In view of all the above, I hereby retract the comments made during the press conference on 27th July, 2018, as it relates to Dr Samuel Ortom.
Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole