Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike appeared before a Rivers State High Court judge in Port Harcourt, to testify as a witness in a 7 billion naira libel suit against the Thisday Newspaper.
According Gov. Wike, he was in court to pursue justice and clear his name as a person from a publication by Thisday Newspaper, which he claimed maliciously “portrayed him as deceitful and untrustworthy person who exerts subterranean influences on judicial matters and over court sittings in Port Harcourt.”
Back in August 2020, the governor instituted a libel suit seeking 7 billion naira as damages against Thisday newspaper over its publication captioned, “With Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’S Waterloo; Almost” on Tuesday June 23, 2020 edition.
Leaders and Company Limited, Chuks Okocha, Thisday Newspapers Limited, Davidson Iriekpan and Adibe Emenyonu were listed as defendants in the suit.
The defendants maliciously and falsely portrayed me as an unreliable friend/person, Governor Wike asserted while testifying as witness in suit No. PHC/1505/CS/2020 before the court presided over by Justice A. Enebeli.
“When you say somebody cannot be trusted; that cannot be a fair comment. When you say somebody is influencing the judiciary, that cannot be a fair comment.”
In his written statement on oath, Governor Wike had stated that the defendants had accused him of influencing the decision of the Court sitting in Port Harcourt that granted an injunction restraining Godwin Obaseki from participating in the primaries of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State in 2020.
He stated that the defendants maliciously accused him of undemocratically exerting influence on the primaries process of PDP in Edo State in aid of his ally, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, who was the beneficiary of the court order restraining Obaseki from participating in the PDP primaries.
The governor, who told the court that he was not even aware of the aforementioned suit by Ogbeide-Ihama against Obaseki, said the publication was reckless, false and without regards for the truth.
According to him, contrary to well known journalistic tradition and practices, the defendants did not investigate properly to ensure the information they relied on was accurate.
“They did not seek to verify the facts from me or in any manner oblige me with the opportunity to state my own side of the story before proceeding to make the false publication.”
Governor Wike stated that the defendants further denigrated him before the entire world as a fake democrat, who engages in meddling in the internal affairs of All Progressives Congress, in order to get at his political foe, Chibuike Amaechi.
The governor explained that he is not a member of the APC and have had no hand in the internal crisis which has bedeviled the party both in Rivers State and all over Nigeria.
“By the letter of Messrs E.C. Ukala and Co., Solicitors, under the hand of Emmanuel C. Ukala, SAN, dated 23rd June 2020, the defendants were given opportunity to retract, and recant the publication as well as to offer apology for the false publication but the defendants spurned the opportunity and ignored the letter completely.”
The governor, while responding to claim by lawyer to the defendants, Turudu Ede, SAN, that the essence of the lawsuit was to intimidate and harass his clients, said the whole essence of the suit was to get justice and clear his name as a man of substantial character, honour and repute.
“The essence of the suit is to get justice since they (defendants) refused to retract the publication or apologise. So, I sued them to clear my name.”
Speaking to journalists outside the court, one of the lawyers to Governor Wike, Mr. Mark Agwu said his client is in court to seek legal redress.
“To challenge him as person, it means you have made him untrustworthy, a deceit, a cheat, an influencer of the court, because the publication they made was that he had a role to play influencing the outcome of that Federal High Court case. Nobody will take that lightly, and especially for a man who believes in the rule of law.”
The court adjourned the matter for further hearing to 12th, 13th and 14th of January 2022.
Categories: Rivers State