A Benin High Court presided over by Justice Vestee Eboreime, on Thursday adjourned the N5 billion libel suit instituted by the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Mike Igini, against the Edo State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Col. David Imuse (retd.) to September 26, 2022.
Also, Imuse pleaded for an out-of-court settlement to help settle the matter amicably.
The adjournment was sequel to an oral application by the counsel for Imuse, Mr. Austin Osarenkhoe, who informed the court that at the close of sitting on Tuesday, August 3, he had a meeting with the claimant’s counsel, Clement Onwuenwu (SAN), on the possibility of settling the matter amicably.
Osarenkhoe stressed that having settled a sister matter with the claimant out of courtearlier, he would like to explore the window for Alternative Dispute Resolution, and implored the court to grant his prayer.
In further demonstration of his seriousness at pursuing an out of court settlement, the first defendant’s counsel, stopped his further cross-examination of Imuse, after he had tendered copies of the Nigerian Tribune and The Sun Newspapers, which the claimant relied upon as the vehicles for the purported libel.
Igini, it would be recalled, had dragged Imuse and two others: African Newspapers of Nigeria, ANN, Plc, publishers of the Tribune Titles and The Sun Newspapers before the court, claiming that the Edo State APC Chairman, libeled him (Igini), when he addressed a press conference in Auchi, Edo State, on August 29, 2020, during the heat of the tensioned electioneering for the Edo State gubernatorial election held on September 19, 2020.
Clement Onwuenwu (SAN) counsel to the REC, while objecting to the motion for adjournment, said that since the counsel to the first defendant had opened his cross-examination, it would be proper for him to complete the leg of the legal firework, and used the window of court vacation slated for mid August through September, 2022, to pursue the amicable settlement.
The SAN stressed that hinging the motion for adjournment on the possibility of amicable settlement was not strong enough.
While the counsel to the second defendant (ANN Plc), Mr. Femi Jarete Edema, aligned with the submission of the SAN, counsel to the third defendant (Sun Newspapers), Chief Ogodu, aligned with the first defendant’s counsel’s position, adding that the parties had met and agreed to explore ADR opportunity.
Ruling on the oral application, Justice Eboreime, noted that the court encourages Alternative Dispute Resolution machineries by parties to settle out of court. She subsequently adjourned the case to September 26, 2022.
Speaking to newsmen after the adjournment, Igini said the court case was geared towards redeeming his reputation, which he alleged Imuse damaged by the contents of the press conference.