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Wike, in court over N7bn libel suit, says ‘I’m in court for justice, to clear my name’

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike  has appeared before the State High Court in Port Harcourt, to testify as a witness in a N7bn libel suit he instituted against Thisday Newspaper.

Governor Wike said he was in court to seek justice and clear his name as a person from the “malicious publication by Thisday Newspaper”, which portrayed him as deceitful, untrustworthy person, who exerts subterranean influences on judicial matters and over court sittings in Port Harcourt.

It would be recalled that Governor Wike had in August last year slammed a N7bn suit being damages for libel written and published in the Tuesday, June 23, 2020, edition of Thisday with the headline “With Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo; Almost.”

The defendants in the suit are Thisday Newspapers Limited, Leaders and Company Limited, Davidson Iriekpan, Chuks Okocha and Adibe Emenyonu.

Governor Wike, while testifying as witness in suit No. PHC/1505/CS/2020 before the court presided over by Justice Adolphus Enebeli, asserted that the defendants maliciously and falsely portrayed him as an unreliable friend/person.

“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 People’s 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,” the Governor stated.

Governor Wike added 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 (APC), in order to get at his political foe, Chibuike Amaechi.

The Governor explained that being not a member of the APC, he had no hand in the internal crisis that had 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,” Wike said.

The Governor, while responding to claim by lawyer to the defendants, Turudu Ede, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (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 was 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 January 12, 13, and 14, 2022.

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