Death Of Edo Judge Stalls Trial In N250m Libel Suit

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The death of Justice Timothy Oboh of the Auchi Criminal Division, Edo, yesterday stalled trial in the N250 million libel case by Edo Governor’s aide, Taiwo Akerele, against The Guardian newspaper.
At the resumed hearing in Benin, the matter could not be heard following the death of the judge. The court’s registrar, who announced that the matter had been adjourned till September 26, added that the court would not be sitting because “judges are mourning the death of a brother judge.”
Akerele, Chief of Staff to Gov. Obaseki, had instituted a libel suit against The Guardian over a story it published titled, “Probe of alleged diversion of relief materials begins in Edo.”
In the suit, filed by his counsel and twin brother, Kehinde Akerele, the plaintiff sought “general and/or exemplary or aggravated damages for libel.” He prayed the court to order the newspaper to pay him N250 million as general and/or exemplary or aggravated damages for libel and another N2.5 million as costs.
Akerele further asked the court to compel The Guardian to publish a “well-worded retraction and apology in a similarly conspicuous manner, which must also be published in another newspaper.”
The newspaper had reported that 4,781 of the 6,822 bags of rice meant for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)’ camp at Uhogua, Ovia North-East Local Government Area of the state, were missing. The state Chairman of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, had accused the state government of diverting the items, insisting that it must account for the where-abouts of the said missing relief materials.
The police subsequently invited Orbih for questioning over the reported rice scandal.
The state government, however, denied the allegation and maintained that the rice was judiciously disbursed. It claimed that all the rice and other items, including shoes, were distributed to the IDPs and other orphanage homes in the state, aside the ones that were damaged in the warehouse.