Court fixes April 16 for FG to open defence in defamation suit
A federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Abuja, has fixed April 16, 2019 for Federal Government to open its defence in the defamation suit an international human rights lawyer, Emmanuel Ogebe, filed against it.The trial judge, Justice A.B. Mohammed, had already ordered the government to pay the cost of N1 million to the lawyer sequel to its lateness to file defence in the suit filed since 2017.
The judge ruled that “defendants who failed to file defence within time until the plaintiff had closed his case must be prepared to pay for cost of the pllaitiff having to file a reply process and to attend court again. It is against this background and the record of the last proceedings in the application last ruled upon I granted the cost of N1, 000,000.00 against the defendant to enable him attend subsequent proceedings.”
The government application for extension of time was contested by the plaintiff’s David Ogebe as “shopping for reasons” and producing “new sets of facts” as to why the government delayed.
The court held that, “I have considered the submissions of parties, it is trite law for an application for extension of time to succeed, he must provide convincing reasons for delay which will enable the court exercise its judicial discretion in his favour. See Oroegbu v Okwordu (1990) 6 NWLR pt 159, per Oputa JSC at pages 658, 660; Williams v Hope Rising Voluntary Society (1982) 2 SC145.”
The court further stated that the law and rules are to be obeyed. “Any party who fall short of those provisions, in order to obtain a reprieve, must also act within this age long principles which enable the court which he approaches for that purpose to determine his application judicially and judiciously.
“I am conscious of the fact that this application is brought when the suit is at the stage of the 1st defendant defence. Hence, the plaintiff had only closed his case and the matter for the defendants to open their defence. This being the case, the court will be reluctant to shut out the defendants\applicants from being heard, especially when they have already filed and served a joint statement of defence on the plaintiff\ respondent which they now seek a joint regularize to enable them defend the suit. The natural justice principle of audi alterem patem is so weighty a principle that a court cannot close its eyes to it.”
The court therefore granted the government an order to extend the time within which defendant may file and serve their statement of defence and also properly served statement of defence and witness statement on oath.
Justice Mohammed said that the court must balance the scale of justice, he awarded N1 million cost to Mr. Emmanuel Ogebe against the Federal Government.
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