A magistrate court sitting in Asaba, Delta state has adjourned the defamatory suit brought against the Managing Editor of BIGPEN Online newspaper, Joe Ogbodu, and investigative journalist in Delta State, Prince Amour Udemude.
The suit was brought by the Delta state Police Command on behalf of one Sam Ogrih, a businessman and community leader.
Ogrih had approached the police to arrest the journalists who were subsequently arraigned following a report on the oil crisis in Uzere in which Ogrih was allegedly accused of funding and sponsoring armed youths operating under the code name, ‘freedom fighters’.
At the resume hearing on the suit which had been adjourned severally following the failure of the police to show up for the suit, a lawyer who introduced himself as M.A. Omakor, told the magistrate, that he was watching brief for the claimant, Ogrih.
In his submission, he announced that he has written to the state Attorney General and commissioner for justice for a ‘fiat’ to formally take over the matter from the state criminal investigation department, (CID), Delta state police command.
According to Omakor, “The letter I wrote to the state Attorney General for a ‘fiat’ for me to formally take over the matter, has been responded to but the problem now is that the replied letter is not eligible, the words are not clear to read and as a result we have written another letter to the state Attorney General, but he has asked us to explain why he should issue me another letter when he has already issued me one earlier.
“Your lordship, for this reason, I am applying for an adjournment, to enable me reach out to the state Attorney General concerning the ‘fiat’, and I want to take March, 2, 2020, to enable me do all I needed to do and when we come back there won’t be any reason for any excuse my lordship.”
But in his submission, lead counsel to the two Journalists, C.F. Ebu, argued that it is very obvious that both the police and the claimant were not ready for the case and urged the trial Magistrate to struck out the case.
“Your Lordship, it is very clear that they are not ready for the case. My clients were first arraigned in this court, October, 24, 2019, and this is January 2020 and nothing has been done my Lord. You will see that my learned friend is only playing gimmicks. They are not prepared to go with this case, my lord my application before this court is that the case be struck out my lord.”
At this point, the lead counsel to the two Journalists, sought leave of court for the claimant’s counsel to drop a copy of the response to his letter from the state Attorney General for the court to see whether actually a response letter from the state Attorney General that was probably typed on a computer cannot be visible to read.
But, the claimant’s counsel insisted that the document was ineligible and could not be tendered to the court and thereafter appealed to the Magistrate to accept his proposed adjourned date with a promise to tidy up everything before the next adjournment date.
After listening to both counsels, the Presiding Magistrate, B.N. Anumadu, told the claimant’s counsel to put his house in order, saying any further excuse from him on the next adjourned date will not be accepted by her court and therefore adjourned the case till March, 2, 2020.
Meanwhile, since the two Journalists were first arraigned in October, 24, 2019, the police prosecutor, has failed to come to court for all the adjourned dates, an indication that the police may have lost interest in pursuing the case for the said Ogrih who is not a government official.
It was reliably gathered that the police may be finding it difficult to lay hands on any evidence to prove defamation in the publication concerning the crisis.
The police had maintained that he who claimed to have been defamed must prove his or her case beyond reasonable doubt.
Recalls that the publication followed the crisis in Uzere in which armed youths unleashed mayhem on the community over N20 million oil largesse gifted the community by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC).
According to the report, some community sources who fled the town at the wake of the mayhem caused by the armed community “freedom fighters”, had alleged that Ogrih, who had since denied the allegation funded and sponsored the armed youth terrorising the area.