By Osaigbovo Igupbaro, Benin
Proceedings were on Tuesday stalled at Edo state High court complex in Benin City, following the reported death of a judge.
JusticeTimothy Ukpebor Oboh of the Auchi Criminal Division of the state High Court reportedly died a brief illness, a development which paved the way for adjournment of cases by the court.
The hearing on the libel suit instituted by the Chief of Staff to Governor Godwin Obaseki, Mr. Taiwo Akerele against the Guardian Newspaper was adjourned to September 26, 2016.
Akerele sued the Newspaper over a publication based on allegations made by the Edo PDP that the state government diverted the Rice and assorted relief materials allotted by the Federal government through the customs service to Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs in the state.
Meanwhile, the High Court No. 8 was scheduled to hear the suit on Tuesday June 19, 2018, but adjourned till September 26, 2018, on the resolution of Counsels to parties to the suit.
Akerele in his claims before the court, is asking it for an order for the newspaper to pay him a total sum of N2,250,000.00.
He is asking for N250million as general and/or exemplary or aggravated damages for libel and another N2.5 million as costs.
In addition, Akerele is asking the court for an order so that the newspaper and one other, can publish a “well- worded retracted and apology in a similarly conspicuous manner”.
Besides he is asking for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants by themselves or their agents or privies howsoever from publishing or causing to be published the “said or similar words defamatory” of the claimant”.
Akerele sued the Newspaper on the footing of what he calls “general and/or exemplary or aggravated damages for libel”.
The suit relates to a report widely published online and in major local and national dailies which the Guardian newspaper published earlier in the year with the title, “ Probe of Alleged diversion of relief materials begins in Edo”.
The report echoed the PDP position that about 4, 781 bags of rice out of the 6,822 ostensibly approved for the IDP Camp at Uhogwa in Ovia North East Local Government Area of the state by the Federal Government got missing while in the custody of state officials.
At the time of the PDP allegation, the state government insisted that the items were judiciously disbursed a development which saw the Nigerian Police inviting Chief Dan Orbih, the State chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for questioning.
But it recanted and said that some of the bags of rice and other items like shoes were damaged in storage before they were duly allocated to the IDPs and other orphanage homes in the state.
Media Adviser to the Governor, Mr. Crusoe Osagie had said: “The allegation is laughable and completely false and a design of detractors to smear the image of a performing government”.
He stated then that, “They have tried and failed on all other fronts, now they have stooped lower to a commodity as cheap as rice”.