The defamatory suit brought by one Sam Ogrih against the Managing Editor of BIGPEN Online newspaper, Joe Ogbodu, and another journalist in Delta State, Prince Amour Udemude, at the magistrate court 5, Asaba, the state capital has suffered yet another set back.
The two Journalists were arraigned by the Delta state police command on October 24, 2019 after they reportedly exposed a N20million naira oil corruption deal in which the said Sam Ogrih was allegedly accused of funding and sponsoring some armed Uzere community youths who styled themselves as “Freedom Fighters” and had unleashed mayhem on the community.
The reported N20million oil largesse gifted the community by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) had torn the community into factions.
Ogrih. a native of the area who is said to have stood in favour of one faction was allegedly accused by the locals who fled the oil troubled town at the wake of the crisis of funding and sponsoring the armed community youth with codename “freedom fighters”.
The armed recalcitrant youths had been terrorising the area with guns, battle axe and cutlasses.
But Ogrih, had since denied any involvement in the alleged funding and sponsoring of the armed youths.
He later contacted the Delta Police Command to charge the two journalists who exposed the N20million oil deal and reported on the crisis for misdemeanor to wit defamatory publication.
The journalists who pleaded not guilty to a five-count charges leveled against them were then taken on bail after their counsels, Chuks Ebu and Lawrence Obiorah, applied for their bail which was granted by the Presiding Magistrate of the court, B.N. Anumadu, and the case adjourned till November 12, 2019 for hearing.
At the resume date on November 12, 2019, the case was again moved to January, 6, 2020 at the instance of the trial magistrate who was on her annual vacation.
But on arrival at the Magistrate Court 5 Asaba for the hearing of the case on Monday, January 6, the registrar, again announced to litigants, counsels and Journalists who have stormed the court in solidarity for their two colleagues, that the court was not going to seat due to the absence of the magistrate who is indisposed on health ground. A new date, January 27, was taken for the hearing.
Warri based human rights lawyers, Casey Omo-Irabor, Maxwell Ogedegbe and Asaba based lawyer, Chuks Ebu and other lawyers had offered pro bono services to the two Journalists.
Meanwhile, crisis have continued unabated in the troubled oil-rich Uzere community as the armed youths who styled themselves as ‘freedom fighters’ renewed hostility in the community and targeting perceived enemies of their sponsors.
The development had about two weeks ago, when several building and other properties belonging to a faction in the community were burnt to ashes by the ‘local warlords’ forced the chairman of the council, Isoko South local government, Sir Itiako Ikpokpo, to proscribed all youth bodies and activities in the community till further notice.