A Makurdi High Court on Friday dismissed the preliminary objection filed by the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole and the party in the N10billion defamation suit filed against them by Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, for lack of merit.
In the preliminary objection filed by their counsel, Mr. Damian Dodo, on November 6, 2019, the defendants had contended that they reside in Abuja and the press conference which led to the suit was also held in Abuja.
They argued that the court lacks the territorial jurisdiction to entertain the suit as it ought to have been instituted at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.
Dismissing the objection, Justice Augustine Ityonyinman agreed with the counter-argument of Ortom counsel, Samuel Irabor, that by paragraph 2 of the governor’s statement of claims, he said 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.
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 Irabor that the contentious press release was published in newspapers on July 27, 2018, and the said papers circulate within the jurisdiction of the court.
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It also held that the averments in the governor’s statement of claims were never controverted by the defendants in their statements of defence hence were deemed admitted by virtue of Section 123 of the Evidence Act, 2011.
Justice Ityonyinman adjourned the suit till February 14, 2020, for the commencement of definite hearing on the matter.
Ortom had in August 2018 sued the ex-Edo governor for alleged defamation and libel.
In the suit, he quoted various interviews and press briefings where the APC national chairman allegedly defamed, maligned and demeaned him before right-thinking members of the public.
Governor Ortom quoted several instances where Oshiomhole briefed the media to disparage him including a sponsored programme held on July 27, 2018, and aired on multiple television and radio stations.
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